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300 Austrians File Complaint Against Waldheim

March 3, 1988

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ A group of citizens asked for a ruling Wednesday on whether President Kurt Waldheim’s war record warrants murder charges, and Waldheim ordered the seizure of a magazine that published the complaint.

The left-wing weekly Falter printed a text of the complaint by the 300 Austrians along with three articles critical of the president, who has been accused of committing war crimes while serving as a German army lieutenant in the Balkans during World War II.

Under Article 63 of Austria’s Constitution, the president cannot be prosecuted unless both houses of Parliament approve.

Waldheim’s office said he instructed the state prosecutor’s office to impound copies of the magazine on grounds the issue damaged his honor.

Police said late Wednesday they had not yet received a judge’s order to act.

Waldheim says he is innocent of war crimes.

Walter Oswalt, a journalist and spokesman for the group making the complaint, said it was delivered to the prosecutor’s office Wednesday morning. A spokesman for the office said privacy laws prevented him from confirming such a document was received.

Gerhard Litzka, spokesman for the Justice Ministry, said prosecutors must investigate any such complaint and tell the ministry whether there are grounds for legal action.

As grounds for an investigation of possible charges, the complaint cited a law that says both those who commit crimes and those who assist in them can be held responsible for criminal acts.

It quoted extensively from the report last month by an international panel of historians saying Waldheim was in ″close proximity″ to Nazi atrocities, knew of them and did nothing to stop them. The historians said they found no proof that the former U.N. secretary-general committed war crimes, but left the question of guilt open.

Waldheim has said the historians exonerated him from the accusations of war crimes which arose during the presidential election campaign two years ago.

The complaint also quoted from an interview printed Feb. 25 by the Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung with Manfred Messerschmidt, a West German historian who served on the panel.

Messerschmidt, who has legal training, said steps could be considered in connection with Waldheim’s role in the fate of six British commandos executed by the Nazis in Greece in 1944. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered British authorities last month to reopen an investigation of the case.

Israeli historian Yehuda L. Wallach said Feb. 9 he thought the panel’s report could serve as the basis of an investigation of whether to prosecute Waldheim.

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