EU backs release of wanted ex-KGB general

July 20, 2011 at 9:53 AM

SOPOT, Poland, July 20 (UPI) -- The European Union's justice commissioner is backing Austria's refusal to send a former KGB general to Lithuania where he is wanted for killings in 1991.

Viviane Reding said at a meeting of justice ministers in Poland that a European arrest warrant Lithuanian prosecutors had issued for Mikhail Golovatov is invalid because the warrants cover only crimes committed after 2002, the EUobserver reported Wednesday.

Lithuania accuses Golovatov of ordering the storming of its state television in 1991 during the Baltic republic's struggle for independence from the Soviet Union. Fourteen Lithuanians were killed and hundreds injured.

"From a legal point of view, Austria didn't have the obligation to implement the European arrest warrant," Reding said. But she added: "It's a duty of every member state to cooperate with their partners. Austria and Lithuania decided to have a bilateral working group and leave no doubt that co-operation will be smooth in the future."

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis Monday compared freeing Golovatov to letting Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic escape extradition to the International Criminal Court.

"Could that even be possible?" he asked EUobserver.

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