Suspected Lithuanian war criminal dies before trial

MOSCOW — A Lithuanian suspected of committing war crimes during the Nazi occupation has died without ever being brought to trial.

Antanas Mineikis, 80, died Monday at an old-age home. He had recently suffered a stroke, according to news reports.

His death came as Lithuania launched an investigation into another suspected war criminal, Kazys Gimzauskas.

But Jewish officials continue to question Lithuania's willingness to move against suspected war criminals living in the country.

Nazi hunters say Lithuania is reluctant to move against suspected war criminals because it would dredge up the issue of local collaboration with the Nazis during World War II.

After the war, Mineikis fled Lithuania and settled in the United States.

He was deported to Lithuania after he was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1992 for concealing his wartime service in a Nazi-led execution squad.

The Lithuanian prosecutor general had investigated Mineikis' past, but later stopped the probe, citing a lack of evidence.

Lithuania began legal proceedings against another suspected war criminal, Alexander Lileikis, who was also stripped of his U.S. citizenship. But action against Lileikis, 90, was postponed in July when medical experts determined that he was not fit to stand trial.

Under Lithuanian law, suspects cannot be brought to trial if medical experts rule that they are too ill.

Lithuania's Parliament delayed action last month on an amendment that would change that law, prompting Jewish activists to complain that the government would prefer to wait for Lileikis' death.

Earlier this week, Lithuania launched an investigation of Gimzauskas. The 89-year-old is suspected of having handed Jews over to death squads in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, during World War II, when he was deputy head of the Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian security police, known as the Saugumas.

Jewish officials cautiously welcomed the decision to investigate Gimzauskas.

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel office, said in a statement, "The question at present is whether the opening of this investigation represents a sincere attempt to achieve justice or is merely a ploy to gain points in Western public opinion."