Calls for life imprisonment for ex-Soviet officer

  • 2001-03-29
  • BNS
SIAULIAI - Prosecutors from the northern Lithuanian city of Siauliai have called for life imprisonment in a case against Soviet NKVD officer Petr Raslan, who is charged with genocide. Raslan is on trial in absentia.

Many believe, however, that the court ruling, expected on April 5, will never be executed because Russia will likely refuse to extradite Raslan, who is a Russian citizen.

With confirmation from Russian law enforcement institutions that the 87-year-old suspect, a resident of the Balashikh village near Moscow, had been notified of charges against him, the court's panel of judges started court hearings on March 19.

The case against one of the main suspects in a massacre in the village of Rainiai in northwest Lithuania has been held up since 1999 with Lithuania failing to get confirmation from Russian authorities that Raslan had been served a summons and notified of the charges against him.

Lithuanian law provides for trials in absentia in cases of genocide if the suspect lives abroad and fails to appear in court in Lithuania, but the suspect must be given summons to appear and a copy of the charges before the trial process moves forward.

The International Commission for Assessing the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes based in Vilnius recently expressed concern over delays in the Raslan case.

Raslan, formerly a high Soviet state security official, is charged with organizing and carrying out the 1941 massacre of 76 civilians in Rainiai' village near Siauliai.

Basing its request on a Russia-Lithuania treaty on legal aid and legal relations in civil, family and criminal cases, the Lithuanian Justice Ministry attempted three times - in March, September and October of 1999 - to elicit the help of Russia's Justice Ministry in presenting Raslan with the court's documents.

The Lithuanian prosecutor general's office decided to bring Raslan to justice in 1992 and issued a warrant for his arrest.

It was soon learned he had left for Russia. Lithuanian prosecutors asked Raslan to come to Lithuania in the spring of 1998, but Raslan said he didn't agree with the charges and refused to appear in court.

The prosecutor general's office is investigating about 90 cases of genocide committed against Lithuanian citizens. Cases against 15 people went to trial last year.

Lithuanian courts have issued verdicts in just a few cases against perpetrators of Soviet genocide. Many of the defendants are elderly and seriously ill, making it impossible for them to attend proceedings. Some have died before verdicts were issued.

One former NKVD officer is currently serving time in a Lithuanian prison for genocide. Two have died while serving sentences and several cases are currently in the courts, but trials have been delayed because of the poor health of the elderly defendants.