Monday, January 02, 2006

Accused Estonian Nazi cleared after five years


Estonian prosecutors have dropped a case against an Estonian-born businessman now living in Venezuela who had been accused of murdering some 100 Jews in Nazi-occupied Estonia in World War II.

"The hands of Harry Mannil are clean of blood, and a criminal case regarding him has been closed because he was involved in no crime," Estonian prosecutor Heino Tonismagi told reporters in Tallinn on Friday, saying that a five-year investigation turned up no incriminating evidence against Mannil.

The Vienna-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which hunts down Nazi war criminals, has accused Mannil, now 85, of murdering some 100 civilians, mostly Jews, between 1941 and 1942 when he worked in the Estonian and German security forces during the Nazi occupation of the Baltic state.

But the Estonian investigation into Mannil's wartime activities did not turn up any evidence that he took part in the arrest, torture or killings of people while he worked for the police, or that he decided their fate, the Tonismagi said.

"We established that Mannil interrogated some of the arrested people," Tonismagi said. "But Harry Mannil could not have participated in the arrest of those people. We did not find any documents or witnesses to prove that he participated in the arrest of Jews or in taking decisions about their fate, to say nothing of executing decisions about these people."

Tonismagi said it was "regrettable" that some Estonians collaborated with Estonia's Nazi German occupiers during World War II, but added that their guilt must be proven case by case. "Mannil is not guilty," he added.

Estonian law enforcement bodies interrogated Mannil five times during their long probe and interviewed 56 witnesses.