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Lithuania report
by Euro Reporter
2012-05-29 08:39:43
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Lithuania tracks Holocaust war crime suspects

Lithuania has concluded the first phase of a study aimed at identifying over a thousand Lithuanians suspected of killing Jews in the Baltic state during Holocaust, a senior researcher said Friday. Terese Birute Burauskaite, head of the Vilnius-based Genocide and Resistance Research Center, said she will make a full list of suspected war criminals available to justice authorities. "Historians have reviewed 4,268 names mentioned publicly. Following our investigations, it was reduced to 1,034 people," Burauskaite told AFP, adding she expected that number to double as the investigation is completed by the end of next year. "Our historians believe there could have been around two thousand people (in Lithuania) who murdered Jews" during World War II, Burauskaite said.

A five-member team launched the investigation in 2010 after an Israeli website published a controversial list of possible war criminals, including respected top anti-Soviet fighters, causing outrage in Lithuania. Researchers say it is up to prosecutors to decide whether the list will be made public. A majority of those on it were already sentenced by Soviet authorities, some to death, and Lithuania "has no information that any murderer of Jews is now living in Lithuania," Burauskaite said. During World War II, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 under Moscow's secret pact with Nazi Germany, and later the Soviets deported over 17,000 Lithuanians to Siberia. Germany then drove out the Red Army when it invaded the USSR in 1941.

Some Lithuanians hailed the Germans as liberators, hoping they would grant Lithuania a measure of sovereignty. Anti-Semitic propaganda was spread blaming the Jews for the terror of the Soviet occupation. Under the Nazi German occupation of Lithuania in 1941-1944, around 195,000 Lithuanian Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis and local collaborators. No more than five-ten percent of the country's pre-war Jewish population of over 200,000 survived the Holocaust.


Retail sales fall

Lithuania's retail sales, excluding automotive trade, declined 0.8 percent month-on-month, Statistics Lithuania said Monday. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales decreased 0.6 percent month-on-month. Sales of food articles increased 0.3 percent from March and that of non-food articles fell 2.4 percent.

Retail sales of automotive fuel increased 0.4 percent from a month earlier.  Year-on-year, total retail sales increased 1.5 percent. During the first four months of the year, sales increased 6.5 percent compared to the same period last year.


Police detain 39 in child custody case

Riot police helped a mother regain custody of her 8-year-old daughter on Thursday in a tragic case that has riveted Lithuania for three years and led to three deaths. Thirty-nine protesters were detained as they tried to prevent the police from carrying out a 5-month-old court order saying the mother should regain custody of her daughter from a house where relatives were keeping her. Many Lithuanians in the southern town of Garliava violently opposed the order because they allege the girl's mother, Laimute Stankunaite, is part of a pedophile ring. Protesters had long prevented authorities from taking the girl, Deimante Kedyte, from her deceased father's relatives by forming a cordon around the house. But early Thursday morning Stankunaite and her lawyer — both wearing bulletproof vests and surrounded by dozens of police carrying shields — whisked the girl out of the house to a waiting van.

The demonstrators screamed and shouted obscenities, and many were later shown crying. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius defended the action. "People have different opinions about this operation, but Lithuania has its laws, its Constitution, and everybody has to respect it — including law enforcement institutions," he told reporters. Video and photos of the operation immediately went viral, and several hundred Lithuanians met in downtown Vilnius, the capital, to hold a vigil outside President Dalia Grybauskaite's residence and urge her to reverse the court decision. "We are here because we care for our country. We see it is being demolished with the help of authorities as they use force against an innocent child and destroy the republic's moral foundations," said vigil participant Darius Kuolys.

It was a dramatic development in a tragic case that has riveted Lithuanian society for the past three years. In 2009, the girl's father, Drasius Kedys, claimed his daughter was being abused by a pedophile ring involving Stankunaite. After Kedys failed to get a court order protecting his daughter, he allegedly killed a judge and the mother's sister, both of whom he accused of being part of the pedophile ring. Kedys then disappeared, only to be found dead near a reservoir in mysterious circumstances two years ago. His funeral was attended by thousands of Lithuanians who had come to regard him as a martyr who dared fight a corrupt justice system. On Thursday, the girl and her mother were moved to an undisclosed location under constant police protection.

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