FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CRM
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1998 (202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888
ATTORNEY GENERAL COMMENDS LITHUANIAN DECISION TO PROSECUTE FORMER U.S. CITIZEN FOR WORLD WAR II GENOCIDE
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Attorney General Janet Reno today applauded the decision of the Government of Lithuania to indict and prosecute accused Nazi criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, who had fled to Lithuania in 1996 after a federal court ordered his denaturalization.
On Friday, Lithuanian authorities forwarded genocide charges against the former Massachusetts resident to the district court in Vilnius, initiating the first prosecution for World War II crimes in any of the successor states to the former Soviet Union, where nearly one million Jews were murdered during the war.
Lileikis, wartime Chief of the notorious Lithuanian Security Police ("Saugumas" in Lithuanian) in Nazi-occupied Vilnius Province, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship by court order in 1996 in a denaturalization suit prosecuted by the Criminal Division's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the United States Attorney's Office in Boston. Lithuanian officials have said that hearings could began in four to six weeks.
"We applaud the Lithuanian General Procuracy's landmark decision to prosecute Lileikis," the Attorney General said today. She added, "It is vital that the nations of the world leave no stone unturned in pursuing justice on behalf of the millions of victims of Nazi genocide."
Lileikis, who had been residing in Norwood, Massachusetts, was denaturalized by court order in May 1996 after Government prosecutors presented captured Nazi documents and other evidence found by OSI investigators proving that he had personally signed orders consigning Jewish men, women and children to death by gunfire at execution pits in the wooded hamlet of Paneriai, several kilometers from Vilnius city.
The evidence included death warrants signed by Lileikis, among them one for a six-year-old girl, Fruma Kaplan, and her mother, Gitta. In his May 24, 1996 judgment, Federal District Court Judge Richard Stearns found that "tens of thousands" of Jews "died under his [Lileikis'] command of the Saugumas." The court confirmed that the Saugumas contributed to the slaughter by enforcing the mass confinement of Jews, capturing those who sought to escape, and delivering Jews to their executioners.
In the U.S. proceedings, Lileikis admitted serving as Chief of the Saugumas, but characterized himself as "a disembodied issuer of orders" -- a claim that led Judge Stearns to write that Lileikis "is attempting to stand the classic Nuremberg defense ["just following orders"] on its head."
In June 1996, Lileikis fled to Lithuania rather than remain in the United States to appeal or to contest a prospective deportation action. In 1996, OSI also secured the denaturalization of Lileikis' deputy, Kazys Gimzauskas. Like Lileikis, Gimzauskas fled to Lithuania, where he currently resides. OSI has also obtained the denaturalization of Algimantas Dailide, a former Saugumas officer living in the Cleveland area, and is currently seeking the denaturalization of Adolph Milius, another former Saugumas officer, now residing as a U.S. citizen in Lithuania.
OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum noted that the denaturalization actions in the United States and the indictment of Lileikis in Lithuania were greatly aided by the spirit of cooperation shown by the officials from both countries. He praised the Lithuanian Government for facilitating access to its archives by U.S. Government investigators and acknowledged the "outstanding" investigative assistance authorities in Vilnius had provided in "numerous cases" investigated by OSI.
To date, OSI has secured the denaturalization of 60 Nazi participants in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution and has obtained the removal of 48 of them from the United States.