Trial postponed for 91-year-old accused of Nazi-era war crimes

NEW YORK — A Lithuanian judge has postponed the trial of an alleged Nazi war criminal for the second time.

The trial of Aleksandras Lileikis, 91, was slated to begin last week in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

But a judge in the case granted an adjournment of one month to allow investigators to finish examining recently obtained documents.

The documents include originals of orders allegedly signed by Lileikis at the time he was head of the Saugumas, the Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian security police during World War II. In one of the documents, Lileikis allegedly handed over 75 Jews jailed in a Vilnius prison to Nazi death squads.

During the Nazi occupation of Lithuania from 1941 to 1944, approximately 94 percent of Lithuania's prewar Jewish community of 240,000 died in the Holocaust.

Historians say the scale of the tragedy could have been smaller had ordinary Lithuanians not helped with the killings.

Lileikis is accused of having handed Jews over to Nazi death squads during the war.

Lileikis denies the charges of genocide, saying his case was fabricated using documents forged by the Soviet KGB after World War II.

His trial was adjourned in March, just one day after it began, to enable the defense to gather additional testimony and documents.

Earlier this month, a Holocaust survivor now living in the United States told a newspaper that Lileikis had saved her life during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania.

Shifra Grodnikaite, who lives in a Denver old-age home, said Lileikis risked his own life to save hers.

According to a Lithuanian prosecutor, any link between Lileikis and Grodnikaite has nothing to do with his wartime service with the Saugumas.

The prosecutor added that anything Grodnikaite had to say about Lileikis "neither strengthened nor weakened the position of the prosecution."

Lileikis is being tried in absentia. Earlier this year, he reportedly had a stroke, and Lithuanian officials said it would be difficult for him to attend court sessions.

Lileikis, who immigrated to the United States in 1955, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in May 1996. He returned to Lithuania a month later, proclaiming his innocence.

He is one of several Lithuanians targeted by Nazi hunters for their alleged role in the Holocaust.

Lithuanian prosecutors filed charges of genocide against Lileikis in February, after months of speculation that Lithuania was unwilling to prosecute suspected war criminals.

The case is the first trial for Holocaust crimes in any of the three Baltic states since they gained their independence from the Soviet Union seven years ago.