(131)  War crimes: the Gecas case

On 4 September 2001 the Scottish Executive announced that Mr Antonas Gecas (85) of Edinburgh would not be extradited to Lithuania to face charges of having participated in the killing of over 30,000 civilians, mostly Jews, in Lithuania and Belarus during the Nazi occupation of those territories in the Second World War (see below, Nos 107 and 127). Mr Gecas was then a lieutenant or platoon commander in the 12th police battalion. He moved to Edinburgh in 1947 and worked thereafter as a National Coal Board engineer and guest house owner. The Executive statement said that medical opinions all indicate that Anton Gecas is not fit to attend court or understand the legal proceedings against him. Mr Gecas had been hospitalised following two strokes in May 2001. Representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, which tracks down Nazi war criminals to have them brought to justice, were fiercely critical of the Executive decision. Mr Gecas died in hospital on 11 September. A repesentative of the Wiesenthal Centre said that the last thing someone like Gecas dese rved is to die in his bed in a hospital in Edinburgh. He deserved to die in prison where he should have been for the past 50 years. It is a badge of shame for the people in Scotland and England who allowed him to live the rest of his life in luxury in the West.