(photo credit: )
A German prosecutor on Tuesday demanded a life prison sentence for an 88-year-old former Nazi commander, saying he helped perpetrate an act of "terror" with his involvement in massacres of Slovak civilians at the end of World War II.
The evidence presented over the past 14 months against Capt. Ladislav Niznansky shows he should be convicted of 164 counts of murder in three massacres in early 1945 after a failed uprising against Slovakia's Nazi puppet government, prosecutor Konstantin Kuchenbauer said.
A former Slovak army captain who at first supported the revolt, Niznansky changed sides after his capture and took charge of the Slovak section of a Nazi unit code-named Edelweiss that hunted resistance fighters and Jews.
In one attack Edelweiss, working with a unit of the elite SS and another unit that included German soldiers and ethnic German irregulars, surrounded the village of Klak to prevent anyone escaping alive, Kuchenbauer said.
"It was a terror measure against civilians," he said in closing arguments to the Munich court.
No effort was even made to determine whether resistance fighters were in the village, he said, adding that men, women and small children were massacred.
"Infants cannot support partisans," Kuchenbauer said.
But defense attorney Steffen Ufer questioned the prosecution's reliance on testimony from an earlier trial in then-communist Czechoslovakia and said Niznansky deserves acquittal.
"There is no doubt there was a terrible massacre, but you have not even begun to prove the guilt of the accused," Ufer said.
Kuchenbauer has already defended his use of statements from the 1962 Czechoslovak trial, which convicted Niznansky of the shootings and other killings and sentenced him to death in absentia.
He has acknowledged, however, that several elderly witnesses invited to Munich had denied their 1962 testimony and said there was no firm evidence that Niznansky himself shot any of the victims.
The court released Niznansky from custody in October 2004, citing contradictory testimony from a former Edelweiss member whose evidence helped secure his 1962 conviction.