Australia orders extradition of Kalējs
An Australian magistrate ruled last week that alleged Nazi war criminal Konrāds Kalējs should be extradited to Latvia, where he is wanted on charges of war crimes and genocide.
Immediately after the ruling by Magistrate Lisa Hannan, Kalējs' lawyers filed an appeal in the federal court on the grounds he is too ill and too old and made an application for bail. They said Kalējs, 87, had dementia and cancer, was blind and nearly deaf and could neither remember the past nor follow what was happening.
A federal judge granted bail, and the Australian Federal Police released Kalējs after two hours in custody. Kalējs was ordered to remain at a Latvian nursing home in Melbourne, surrender his passport and not go to any points of international departure.
Kalējs has been accused of being a guard from 1942 to 1943 at the Salaspils concentration camp near Riga, where Jews and Russian prisoners of war were executed, tortured or died of malnutrition. Investigators, as well as Jewish and human rights groups, claim he was an officer in the Arājs Kommando, a Nazi-sponsored death squad responsible for the murder of some 30,000 Latvian Jews. Kalējs has denied the allegations.
Latvian officials welcomed the ruling, while Jewish leaders said a trial would help Latvians confront the enormity of the Holocaust.
"This is a very good result for us. It's what we were hoping for," Justice Ministry spokesman Leonards Pāvils said. Prosecutor General Jānis Maizītis called the ruling "a positive thing, as it should provide the opportunity to prosecute and investigate all circumstances linked to charges brought against Kalējs."
"A Kalējs trial here would be very valuable for people. I hope it will help everyone understand the terrible things that happened here during the war," Gregory Krupnikov, co-chairman of Latvia's 11,000-strong Jewish community, told The Associated Press.
If Kalējs is extradited and tried, he will be the first Nazi war criminal suspect who would be tried in Latvia after the restoration of independence. If he were expelled from Australia, it would be the first time that Australia has expelled a citizen.
Positive discussion on NATO
NATOs Baltic enlargement was the top issue on Riga's political agenda last week when the visiting Polish president, several US senators, and the president of the United States Committee to Expand NATO pledged firm support for Latvia's NATO bid.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said his country would urge US President George W Bush, during his visit to Europe in June, to let the Baltic states join NATO in its second wave of enlargement in 2002. "As a NATO member, Poland thinks that Latvia has to be a part of the second wave of NATO enlargement, which will enhance security in the region," Kwasniewski said at a news conference in Riga.
US Senators Gordon Smith, Richard Durbin, George Voinovich and Barbara Mikulski, who stopped in Riga before going to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Vilnius, voiced support for Latvia's NATO accession and said Russia would have no veto power over the enlargement decision.
Based on their observations at the Ādaži army-training field, the senators praised the army's readiness for NATO membership. Latvia should talk more about its achievements in order to get a stronger support from alliance member countries, US lawmakers told President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga.
United States Committee to Expand NATO President Bruce Jackson called on Latvia to pay more attention to meeting the political requirements for NATO candidates. As the Balts have shown considerable military success, NATO will now look further into such indicators as the treatment of Russian and Jewish minorities, efforts to combat corruption and crime, as well as the local activities of foreign secret services, Jackson said. He urged Latvian authorities to use the momentum and show more and more progress in order to secure a positive enlargement decision in the NATO 2002 summit in Prague.
Calls for enlargement dates
The EU should specify the enlargement timetable during the next summit in Goteborg, Tomas Bertelman, Sweden's ambassador to Latvia, said during the Baltic Assembly and Nordic Council joint session in Riga last week.
Alar Streiman, Estonia's EU negotiation leader, supported Bertelman, saying the expansion issue should be resolved among member countries in an open discussion. This would help to avoid the political rhetoric of some countries, Streiman said.
Winding up Latvia's six-month presidency, the Baltic Assembly also discussed closer Baltic involvement in the Nordic region, tighter Baltic-Nordic legislative cooperation, as well as improving the business environment in the Baltic states.
Non-citizens slow to naturalize
About 40 percent of Latvia's non-citizens don't want to become citizens, according to Eiženija Aldermane, head of the Naturalization Department.
Addressing the conference On the Path to Civic Society-2001, Aldermane said the dialogue with non-citizens should happen at the highest governmental level. Only support of the government and a good coordination of naturalization efforts could guarantee the successful integration of non-citizens, she said.
Another estimate made public at the conference showed that a high number of new Latvian citizens support Latvia's aspirations to join the European Union. As many as 65 per cent of newly naturalized people support EU enlargement, according to a poll conducted by the Baltic Institute of Social Sciences.
Government approves draft of nuclear information pact
The government approved a draft of a Latvian-Ukrainian agreement calling for immediate information on nuclear incidents and the exchange of information and cooperation in the areas of nuclear safety and anti-radiation protection.
The agreement calls for scientific and technical cooperation in the protection against radioactivity , including the monitoring of radioactive leaks, forecasting of incidents and supervision of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste.
Bourse won't join Norex
The Latvian and Lithuanian stock exchanges have abandoned plans to join the Norex bourse alliance because of unaffordable costs, Riga Stock Exchange President Guntars Kokorevičs said last week.
Kokorevičs told a news conference that the Riga bourse, with equity market capitalization of LVL (Latvian lats) 289.5 million (USD 457.3 million), will continue to search for a partner, mentioning Euronext, the merged Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam stock exchange, the Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bourse and the Finnish HEX as possible candidates.
The deadline for finding a partner is this autumn.
And in other news...
- More than 50 percent of Latvia's population have received secondary education, 26.5 percent have an elementary education and only 13.9 percent have higher education, according to the provisional results of the 2000 population census provided by the Latvian Central Statistics Office.
- Latvian male smokers smoke an average of 15 cigarettes a day, while female smokers smoke eight cigarettes, according to a survey conducted by Finbalt sociological research company.
- Latvia will stop applying tax relief to Estonian companies in Latvia effective 1 July, following tax regulation changes in Estonia. The Estonian Finance Ministry said Latvia's decision to break the tax convention on double taxing of Estonian businesses is illegal.
- The Latvian navy will buy two high-speed patrol boats from the Norwegian army at a symbolic price, reported the Latvian armed forces. The two used Norwegian Storm-class ships are armed with L/70 anti-aircraft guns and a TAK 76 gun for floating targets. Both ships come with completely refurbished navigation equipment. The Latvian navy will now possess a total of 17 vessels.
- Coca-Cola's Latvian arm saw 2000 turnover 15 percent lower year-on-year at LVL 7.3 million (USD 11.51 million) and its losses increased by 42 percent to LVL 2.5 million (USD 3.9 million).
- Latvian mobile phone operator LMT posted a 2000 net profit of LVL 25.67 million (USD 40.53 million), a 31.9 percent rise, year-on-year.
- The state real estate agency posted a 2000 net profit of LVL 1.7 million (USD 2.7 million), an almost threefold increase, year-on-year.
Ieva Raubiško, 1 June 2001
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