German prosecutors on Tuesday demanded a life sentence for an ex-Nazi commander who allegedly oversaw massacres in former Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II. It's likely one of the last trials of its kind.
Ladislav Niznansky is accused of having headed the "Edelweiss" unit
Ladislav Niznansky, the former leader of a German-Czech military unit dubbed "Edelweiss," bore responsibility for the killing of 164 people, many of them women and children, in what today is Slovakia, chief prosecutor Konstantin Kuchenbauer argued.
The victims were "massacred for no apparent reason and without any consideration for age or gender," he told a court in this southern German city as he concluded his closing arguments. "They cried, they screamed and begged for mercy."
Kuchenbauer had told the court on Monday that the denials of Niznansky, now 88, were neither credible nor coherent.
Not guilty plea
Niznansky pleaded his innocence during his 15-month trial, saying that while he was a member of the Edelweiss unit, he joined to avoid being sent to a concentration camp after being caught taking part in an uprising against the occupying Nazi forces.
His lawyer, who is due to deliver his closing arguments on December 6, has urged that Niznansky be acquitted, saying he was merely "at the wrong place at the wrong time."
The Edelweiss unit hunted resistance fighters and Jews
The prosecution has argued that Niznansky had willingly joined Edelweiss, describing him as a life-long opportunist who curried favor with whoever was in power.
Niznansky fled to Germany in 1948 after the communist coup in then Czechoslovakia, where he was sentenced to death in absentia in 1962 for treason and murder. The case against him was revived in 2001, prompted by a request from Slovak justice authorities.
The German prosecution based much of its case on testimony of former members of Edelweiss during the Czech trial. The court sessions were truncated due to the fragile health of the defendant.
A verdict in what is one of the last trials of its kind is expected December 19.