Berlin: German prosecutors have shelved their Nazi war crimes investigation of a retired Minnesota carpenter, saying that the 96-year-old is not fit for trial.
The decision came yesterday, more than two years after the AP published a story establishing that Michael Karkoc commanded a unit in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion accused of burning villages filled with women and children based on wartime documents, testimony from other members of the unit and Karkoc's own Ukrainian-language memoir.
Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, questioned why the US Department of Justice itself had not initiated deportation proceedings against Karkoc after the evidence was revealed.
"They should have been aware of his presence in the United States a long time ago, and if they were aware and did not take any action, that's very unfortunate, and I would say atypical, but it's obviously a failure," he said by telephone from Lithuania. Karkoc's son, Andriy Karkoc, applauded Germany's decision yesterday, but said his family can't recover from AP's "unsupported smears."
"My father was and is innocent," he said.
In Germany, Munich prosecutor Peter Preuss told the AP that Karkoc's attorney had declined to allow him to be examined by a medical expert from Germany, and that his office's decision was based on "comprehensive medical documentation" from doctors at the geriatric hospital in the US where he is being treated.
Andriy Karkoc said yesterday that there has never been any evidence or documentation to prove AP's story, and he questioned the validity of AP's sources.
He said the ordeal has taken a toll on his father, who has Alzheimer's disease and is not capable of suing the AP for its "salacious manufactured slanders."
Paul Colford, AP's vice president and director of media relations, said in a statement: "The Associated Press' stories were solidly reported and well-documented. We stand by them."
The US Department of Justice has refused to say whether it has ever investigated Michael Karkoc, citing its policy of neither confirming nor denying investigations.
But Andriy Karkoc said a top Justice official visited his father twice since the AP story, the last time as recently as several months ago.
Department of Justice spokesman Peter Carr said yesterday he also could not comment on whether his office would now pursue deportation proceedings against Michael Karkoc.