Meri case will start in May

  • 2008-02-22
  • In cooperation with BNS

KARDLA - Hearings in the genocide trial of Arnold Meri, cousin of Estonia's former President Lennart Meri, will start in the capital of the island of Hiiumaa on May 20, a judge has ruled.

Judge Mart Reino has set hearings for May 20 and 21.Since the Kardla courthouse is not big enough to accommodate all the parties in the proceedings, the trial will be held in the Kardla community center.

The Supreme Court has already rejected an application by Meri's counsel, barrister Sven Sillar, that the case should be heard by the International Criminal Court.

The West Circuit Prosecutor's Office assigned the criminal case against the 88-year-old Meri to the court inKardla, as according to theindictment Meri took part in preparations for the March 1949mass deportation of Estonians to Siberia and led andcontrolled the carrying out of the deportations on the island.

On March 25, 1949 a total of 251 civilians were detained in Hiiumaa. They were taken by boat to the mainlandport of Paldiski the next day and later shipped by rail inspecially adapted freight cars to Siberia for life.

Meri was in 1949 a representative of the reigning powerof the time, being a member of the Central Committee of theCommunist Party of Estonia, member of the Central Committeeof Komsomol and first secretary of the Estonian branch ofKomsomol.

Meri's activities in 1949 were investigated by the security police.

Meri served in the Red Army in World War II. In 1942-45he was deputy commissar of the Estonian Rifle Corps. He wasawarded the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union in August1941 and the Order of Lenin in 1948. He served as deputy minister of education of the Estonian SSR in 1961.

During the mass deportations of March 1949, the second large-scale deportations carried out by the Soviets in Estonia, 20,702 residents were taken to Siberia. The deportees were allowed to return in the years after Stalin's death, but some 3,000 of them had perished by then.