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Passings

Arnold Meri

Genocide trial subject

March 31, 2009|Times Wire Reports

Arnold Meri, 89, a decorated Red Army veteran charged with genocide for deporting hundreds of his Estonian countrymen to Siberia in 1949, died Friday at his home in Tallinn, Estonia.

In 2007, Estonian prosecutors charged Meri with genocide, claiming he oversaw the roundup and deportation of 251 civilians on the island of Hiiumaa, 90 miles west of Tallinn, in March 1949. During that month, Soviet authorities organized large deportations in Estonia and its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania of people considered to be enemies of the Soviet Union.

Prosecutors said the Hiiumaa deportees, including women and children, were shipped to the mainland and then by train to labor camps in Siberia, where many of them died.

During the trial, Meri acknowledged taking part in the deportations but pleaded not guilty to genocide, claiming he was just carrying out orders as a civil servant. The case was adjourned several times because of Meri's failing health and had not been completed at the time of his death.

The genocide charges have angered Moscow, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reacted to the news of Meri's death by awarding him a posthumous medal of honor.

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news.obits@latimes.com

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