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Britain’s First War Crimes Defendant Ordered to Stand Trial

January 4, 1996

LONDON (AP) _ The judge in Britain’s first war crimes case dismissed one of four charges Thursday against an 85-year-old man accused of killing Jews in German-occupied Belarus during World War II.

Presiding Magistrate Peter Badge rejected the charge against Szymon Serafimowicz of killing a Jew in the village of Turets on October 27, 1941.

But the judge ordered Serafimowicz to stand trial on three other charges of killing Jews in his native Belarus, then a part of the Soviet Union known as Byelorussia.

Serafimowicz, who has been free on bail, pleaded innocent to the charges last year. Appearing at Dorking Magistrates’ Court, he spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth.

An estimated 200,000 Jews were killed in Belarus during War II. Survivors say Serafimowicz was responsible for thousands of the deaths as the police commander of the Mir district of Belarus during the Nazi occupation in 1941 and 1942. Serafimowicz immigrated to Britain in 1947.

Now a British citizen, he is the first person charged under Britain’s 1991 War Crimes Act. The law authorizes prosecution of alleged war criminals who were not British residents at the time for crimes not committed on British soil.

Unlike the United States, Britain will not extradite suspected war criminals.

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