Case of alleged Nazi sympathizer disturbs 'emigr'e community
The case of a 67-year-old Estonian immigrant facing deportation to the Soviet Union is raising concerns within the Baltic 'emigr'e community about the consistency of the Reagan administration's hard-line stance in dealings with Moscow. Four months after the resolution of the Daniloff affair, members of the Baltic community in the United States are upset over Justice Department efforts to deport Karl Linnas, an alleged Nazi collaborator who was sentenced to death by Soviet authorities in 1962.
If deported, Mr. Linnas would be the first person sent by the US government to the Soviet Union who was facing a pending death sentence in that country.
On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court refused a final review of the case, clearing the way for US officials to deliver Linnas to the Soviets.
At time of writing Thursday, Linnas was still being held in a New York City jail. His lawyers were pursuing last-minute appeals. But observers said it appeared there was little chance that the deportation would be blocked.
Baltic 'emigr'e groups say Linnas is wanted by the Soviets because he fought the communists in Estonia during the Stalin era. They say for that reason he will not receive a fair trial. They add that US efforts to deport him have been influenced by fraudulent evidence and testimony provided by the Soviets.
``People cannot believe that Ronald Reagan, the man who was going to save the world from communism, is allowing this to happen,'' says Mari-Ann Rikken of the Coalition for Constitutional Justice, an umbrella organization of Baltic and East European ethnic groups concerned about the activities of US Justice Department Nazi hunters.
Reagan administration officials have repeatedly condemned Soviet human rights abuses, and the manipulation of Soviet criminal trials to serve political purposes. For these reasons, the US government has traditionally been reluctant to cooperate with the Soviets in cases that might overlap with Soviet political objectives.
Officials with the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations say that evidence and testimony provided by the Soviet Union is carefully examined by US officials to ensure that it is authentic and factual. OSI officials have stressed in the past that West German courts prosecuting alleged war criminals have also relied on Soviet-supplied documents.
They say that without the help of the Soviets it would be difficult to make substantial cases against suspected Nazi collaborators. Many of the atrocities committed against Jews and other civilians during World War II occurred in regions now under Soviet control.
Because the US has no jurisdiction of its own to prosecute Nazi war criminals and collaborators, federal prosecutors have worked instead at identifying suspects, stripping them of their US citizenship, and sending them to countries with the jurisdiction to try them.
While some evidence of Nazi collaboration must be presented at US deportation hearings, defense lawyers who have represented accused collaborators say that the standard of proof in such civil cases is significantly lower than in criminal trials.
``What is out of focus [in the Linnas case] is that it is being treated as though it were a civil matter - as though the consequences were relatively benign,'' says Linnas's lawyer, Lawrence W. Schilling. ``The reality is that this man is being sent to his death.''
The 'emigr'e groups are pushing for an investigation of Justice Department's collaboration with the Soviets. They say they would prefer that people accused of Nazi war crimes face vigorous criminal trials in the US rather than farming them out to countries they say may be more intent on political revenge than truth and justice.