Decision to deport alleged Nazi war criminal criticised

 

Campaigners tracking down alleged Nazi war criminals have criticised a plan by the British Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, to deport to Australia a Latvian, accused of involvement in the murder of thousands of Jews during the second World War.

Describing it as a "missed opportunity for justice", they have vowed to call on the Australian authorities to act against Mr Konrad Kalejs (86).

The Home Office served a deportation notice on Mr Kalejs yesterday, four days short of the expiry of his visa, after the Immigration Service was told that British police had no grounds to arrest him.

Mr Kalejs is expected to leave Britain of his own accord later this week. Legal experts had admitted time was running out for the British authorities to act against him because no charges had been brought.

Jewish groups in Britain and around the world had accused Mr Kalejs of leading death squads in Latvia and Belarus, but Mr Straw said the police had not found enough evidence to detain him and "the rule of law" must be applied.

A Home Office spokesman said it had the power to deport someone on the grounds that their exclusion would be "conducive to the public good". Mr Kalejs will be given an opportunity to appeal.

Mr Kalejs, who arrived in Britain from Australia six months ago and is living in Catthorpe Manor, a retirement home in Leicestershire, has denied involvement in the murder of Jews during the war and has complained of being hounded from country to country.

He has previously been deported from the US and Canada, but authorities in Australia decided there was not enough evidence to investigate the allegations against him.

The Labour MP for Walsall North, Mr David Winnick, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said he would call on the Australian authorities to prosecute Mr Kalejs. "If this person does make it back to Australia I shall be writing to the Australian High Commission, urging that urgent steps be taken in his country to investigate these allegations," he said.

Dr Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal centre of Jerusalem, told reporters he was "deeply disappointed" by Mr Straw's decision and said the Home Secretary had missed an opportunity to achieve justice by investigating the possibility of prosecution or deporting Mr Kalejs to Latvia.