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War Crimes Trial Begins in Vilnius

November 14, 2000

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) _ A 93-year-old former Florida resident charged with war crimes in Nazi-era Lithuania went on trial in absentia Monday, a year after proceedings with the defendant in the courtroom were halted because of his failing health.

Kazys Gimzauskas, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, is accused of sending scores of Jews to their deaths when he served in the Vilnius security police during the 1941-44 Nazi occupation. He says he is innocent.

Gimzauskas emigrated to the United States in 1956 and lived in St. Petersburg, Fla., until 1994, when he returned to Lithuania after a U.S. court moved to strip him of his citizenship for lying about his wartime record.

He will not have to serve a sentence if he is convicted.

Judges began examining some 250 pages of evidence introduced by prosecutors. No witnesses are alive to testify, court spokeswoman Lina Vysniauskiene said.

Two months ago, Gimzauskas’ boss in the Nazi-era security police, Aleksandras Lileikis, died of a heart attack before a court could rule on war-crimes charges against him. He was also 93.

Gimzauskas was charged a few years after returning to Lithuania. His trial began in 1998, but it was repeatedly delayed and then suspended because of his health.

After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Lithuania vowed to pursue those who participated in the massacre of some 240,000 Lithuanian Jews during Nazi rule. So far, no one has been convicted.

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