Estonia starts genocide trial of ex-Soviet officer - Emirates24|7

Estonia starts genocide trial of ex-Soviet officer


A cousin of a former president of Estonia went on trial on Tuesday on charges of genocide in connection with the deaths of dozens of people deported to Soviet prison camps in 1949.

Arnold Meri, 88, a highly decorated Soviet soldier and cousin of former Estonian President Lennart Meri, was charged in August last year of involvement in the deportation of 251 Estonians from a small island off the Baltic state's west coast.

He denies charges of genocide, which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in jail.

"The trial started this morning, but I cannot say how long it will take," said prosecutor office spokeswoman Kulli Kivioja.

The charges say 43 of the deportees died in Siberian labour and concentration camps and one died en route.

Meri has said in interviews with local media that he is deaf, going blind and has high blood pressure. His lawyer has requested a new health check for him and will petition the court for this, Kivioja added.

As in Latvia and Lithuania, the two other former Soviet Baltic countries, deportations took place during the rule of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Thousands of people died in exile.

Estonia has been gradually trying to prosecute people with alleged links to Soviet-era repressions. They have been criticised by Jewish groups for not doing enough to prosecute people who murdered Jews during the Nazi occupation of World War Two.