IN SHORT

Slovak war criminal behind bars

GERMAN police have detained a war criminal who is believed to be responsible for ordering the killing of 146 Slovak civilians during World War II.

According to the state-run news agency TASR, on January 16 the Munich police arrested German citizen of Slovak origin Ladislav Nižnanský, 86, who is currently in custody.

During the second world war Nižňanský was the head of a pro-Hitler special anti-partisan unit, Hlinka's Guard and Edelweiss, and was actively involved in a 1945 massacre in two Slovak villages that came to be known as "Bloody Sunday".

On January 21, 1945, German SS units murdered almost 150 people living in two central Slovak villages, Ostrý Grúň and Kľak.

The victims included 70 women and 51 children. The SS troops also burnt down the houses in the villages.

Koloman Vido, president of the National Union of Anti-fascist Warriors, said that it felt as if justice had finally been served with Niňanský's arrest.

"I don't wish for anything except that he is punished as he deserves to be, although no one will bring the murdered people back to life. His life is stained with the blood of innocent people," Vido said to TASR.

Nižňanský is also being held responsible for ordering the execution of 18 Jewish civilians in February 1945.

After the war Nižňanský fled to Austria in 1948, and later to Germany, where he worked for Radio Free Europe (RFE) for almost 30 years.

Although the local media under communism repeatedly reported on Nižňanský's fascist past in Slovakia, RFE representatives dismissed the information as communist propaganda.

Under German law, Nižňanský, who was granted German citizenship in 1996, can be sentenced to life if found guilty.

In a special court trial in the central Slovak city of Banská Bystrica in 1962, Nižňanský received the death penalty in absentia.

An international arrest warrant on Nižňanský was issued in 2001 in cooperation with Slovak authorities.

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