WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A court in eastern Poland has issued an arrest warrant for a Minnesota man sought in a Nazi massacre, opening the way for Poland to seek his extradition from the United States.
The Associated Press had previously identified the man as 98-year-old Michael Karkoc, an ex-commander in an SS-led unit that burned Polish villages and killed civilians in World War II.
Earlier this week, prosecutors from the state Institute of National Remembrance said evidence shows that American citizen Michael K. was a commander of a unit in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion that raided eastern Poland’s villages in July 1944.
They sought an arrest warrant for him from a court in eastern Poland, a step toward extradition.
Judge Dariusz Abramowicz told the AP Wednesday the regional court in Lublin issued a warrant, based on 13 volumes of evidence, including documents from the U.S., Germany and Ukraine and from Poland’s archives.
“In the court’s assessment the evidence presented by the Institute of National Remembrance indicates a high probability that the suspect committed the crimes,” Abramowicz said.
The decision comes four years after the AP published a story establishing that Michael Karkoc commanded the unit, based on wartime documents, testimony from other members of the unit and Karkoc’s own Ukrainian-language memoir.
Karkoc must be present in court in Poland since the country does not recognize trial in absentia. If extradited, he would face a court in Lublin, in eastern Poland.
Abramowicz said there was no information to suggest that health conditions could hamper Karkoc from standing trial. Karkoc’s family in Minneapolis says he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The family denies Karkoc was involved in any war crimes.
Karkoc’s son, Andriy Karkoc, reiterated Wednesday that his father is innocent of any war crimes, and called on the judge to release any evidence that may implicate his father.
Informed of the arrest warrant, he asked rhetorically: “Do they have any evidence on which to base that?”
Andriy Karkoc also pointed out that German prosecutors declined in 2015 to seek his father’s extradition, concluding he was unfit to stand trial.
It was not immediately clear when Poland’s Justice Ministry would write the extradition motion, which would then be handled by the U.S. Justice Department.
Messages seeking comment left with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Poland’s justice officials have not released the suspect’s last name, in line with Poland’s privacy laws.
By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press
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