Judges convicted an 81-year-old former Soviet secret police agent yesterday of crimes against humanity for helping to deport 41 people, including children, to Siberia in the 1940s after Estonia was occupied by Stalin's forces.
Juri Karpov faced a maximum penalty of life in prison for his crime, but the City Court in Tallinn, Estonia's capital, opted for an eight-year suspended sentence and a fine of 3,700 kroons (£150) because of his age.
Prosecutors said the ex-Stalinist agent delivered whole families deemed enemies of the Communist regime to cattle trains fitted with iron bars. After a 1,200-mile journey, three died in the harsh conditions of exile. The deportations from the Baltic state took place in March 1949, when Soviet forces shipped more than 20,000 people from a nation of 1.4 million to desolate corners of Russia.
"We believe justice was done," the lead prosecutor, Enla Ulviste, said. "He was at least forced to face his accusers."
Evidence included deportation orders with Karpov's signature, taken from a KGB archive kept in a cellar that was opened to the public when Estonia regained independence as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. While admitting that he worked for the NKVD police – the precursor of the notorious KGB – Karpov maintained his innocence, saying the archive documents placed him at locations he had never been. He said he would appeal.
"I did not belong to the circle of people informed about or preparing for the [deportation] operation," Karpov, wearing a blue double-breasted suit and thick bifocals, told the court earlier this week.
Karpov holds a Russian passport, as do thousands of Russians who settled in Estonia during Soviet rule. He is one of some 20 former agents, mostly Estonian citizens, charged over the past decade.
The neighbouring Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania have prosecuted several men who took part in Soviet atrocities. No other former Soviet republics have held similar proceedings.
Russia has repeatedly denounced the trials as revenge against ailing old men. It has sent diplomats to observe the trials of those carrying Russian passports and has helped to cover defence costs of the accused, including in Karpov's case.
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