Red Army veteran facing genocide charge

Aug. 22, 2007 at 4:05 PM

TALLINN, Estonia, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Arnold Meri, a veteran of the Soviet Union's Red Army, is facing a genocide charge for his alleged involvement in the forced deportation of Estonians in 1949.

Meri, who is also former Estonian president Lennart Meri's cousin, has been accused of helping organize the mass deportation of Estonian citizens from the Hijumaa island to Siberia, Interfax reported Tuesday.

The deportation occurred in 1949 during the reign of famed Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, while the Hijumaa island was still considered part of the Estonian Soviet Republic.

Regional officials have said that 251 civilians had been detained on the island prior to the 1949 deportation.

When the deportation took place, Meri had been a Central Committee of the Estonian Communist Party member and the leader of the Estonian Young Communist League.

The Russian press agency said that Meri, who is now the Estonian Anti-Fascist Committee's head, became the first Estonian given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union in 1941.

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