Saturday June 15, 2013

Commander in Nazi SS-led unit linked to atrocities living in Minnesota

BERLIN (AP) -- A top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of burning villages filled with women and children lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States and has been living in Minnesota since shortly after World War II, according to evidence uncovered by The Associated Press.

Michael Karkoc, 94, told American authorities in 1949 that he had performed no military service during World War II, concealing his work as an officer and founding member of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division, according to records obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information Act request. The Galician Division and a Ukrainian nationalist organization he served in were both on a secret American government blacklist of organizations whose members were forbidden from entering the United States at the time.

Though records do not show that Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes, statements from men in his unit and other documentation confirm the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader. Nazi SS files say he and his unit were also involved in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a Polish rebellion against German occupation.


Advertisement

Polish prosecutors announced Friday after the release of the AP investigation that they will investigate Karkoc and provide "every possible assistance" to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has used lies in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals. The AP evidence of Karkoc’s wartime activities has also prompted German authorities to express interest in exploring whether there is enough to prosecute. In Germany, Nazis with "command responsibility" can be charged with war crimes even if their direct involvement in atrocities cannot be proven.

Karkoc refused to discuss his wartime past at his home in Minneapolis, and repeated efforts to set up an interview, using his son as an intermediary, were unsuccessful.

Iran’s battered reformers seek rebound with high turnout in presidential election

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Reform-minded Iranians who have faced years of crackdowns looked Friday to claw back a bit of ground in a presidential election that gave them an unexpected hero and a chance to upend a vote that once appeared solidly in the hands of Tehran’s ruling clerics.

While Iran’s presidential elections offer a window into the political pecking orders and security grip inside the country -- particularly since the chaos from a disputed outcome in 2009 -- they lack the drama of truly high stakes as the country’s ruling clerics and their military guardians remain the ultimate powers.

Election officials began the ballot count after voters waited on line for hours in wilting heat at some polling stations in downtown Tehran and other cities, while others cast ballots across the vast country from desert outposts to Gulf seaports and nomad pastures. Voting was extended by five hours to meet demand, but also as possible political stagecraft to showcase the participation.

The apparent strong turnout suggested liberals and others abandoned a planned boycott as the election was transformed into a showdown across the Islamic Republic’s political divide.

On one side were hard-liners looking to cement their control behind candidates such as nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who says he is "100 percent" against detente with Iran’s foes, or Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf.

Hezbollah says it will keep fighting in Syria after U.S. decides to arm rebels in civil war

BEIRUT (AP) -- Hezbollah’s leader vowed Friday that his militants would keep fighting in Syria "wherever needed" after the U.S. agreed to arm the rebels in the civil war, setting up a proxy fight between Iran and the West that threatens to engulf more of the Middle East.

President Barack Obama has deepened U.S. involvement in the conflict, authorizing lethal aid to the rebels for the first time after Washington said it had conclusive evidence the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. Syria accused Obama of lying about the evidence, saying he was resorting to fabrications to justify his decision to arm the rebels.

The opposition forces, which have suffered key battlefield losses in recent weeks and were facing heavy fighting Friday in Syria’s largest city of Aleppo, appealed for the weapons to be sent to them as soon as possible to swing the momentum to their side.

The 2-year-old conflict, which the U.N. estimates has killed more than 90,000 people and displaced millions, is increasingly being fought along sectarian lines, pitting Sunni against Shiite Muslims, and is threatening the stability of Syria’s neighbors.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, chief of the Shiite Hezbollah group in Lebanon, appeared unwavering in his support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Britain tells airlines NSA leaker Snowden should not be allowed on flights to UK

LONDON (AP) -- The British government has warned airlines around the world not to allow Edward Snowden, who leaked information on top-secret U.S.government surveillance programs, to fly to the United Kingdom.

A travel alert, dated Monday on a Home Office letterhead, said carriers should deny Snowden boarding because "the individual is highly likely to be refused entry to the U.K."

The Associated Press saw a photograph of the document taken Friday at a Thai airport. A British diplomat confirmed that the document was genuine and was sent out to airlines around the world. Airlines in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore also confirmed the alert had been issued.

In London, Home Office officials refused Friday to discuss the travel alert.

The diplomat said such alerts are issued to carriers that fly into the U.K., and if any airline brings Snowden into the country, it will be liable to be fined 2,000 British pounds ($3,100). He said Snowden would likely have been deemed by the Home Office to be detrimental to the "public good."

House passes $638B defense bill, backs new punishments for sex crimes in the military

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House overwhelmingly passed a sweeping, $638 billion defense bill on Friday that imposes new punishments on members of the armed services found guilty of rape or sexual assault as outrage over the crisis in the military has galvanized Congress.

Ignoring a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House voted 315-108 for the legislation, which would block President Barack Obama from closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and limit his efforts to reduce nuclear weapons.

The House bill containing the provisions on sex-related crimes that the Obama administration supports as well as the detention policies that it vigorously opposes must be reconciled with a Senate version before heading to the president’s desk. The Senate measure, expected to be considered this fall, costs $13 billion less than the House bill -- a budgetary difference that also will have to be resolved.

The defense policy bill authorizes money for aircraft, weapons, ships, personnel and the war in Afghanistan in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 while blocking the Pentagon from closing domestic bases.

Shocking statistics that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year and high-profile incidences at the service academies and in the ranks pushed lawmakers to tackle the growing problem of sexual assault. A single case of a commander overturning a conviction -- a decision that even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel couldn’t change -- drove Congress to act swiftly.