From............ THE TICO TIMES
Central America’s Leading English Language Newspaper
Archbishop Defends His Role in Koziy Case
BY BRIAN HARRIS
COSTA Rica's Archbishop, Msgr. Roman Arrieta, this week defended his role in preventing the extradition of accused war criminal Bohdan Koziy from his haven in Costa Rica to the Soviet Union in 1987.
Arrieta said he intervened on behalf of the former Ukrainian police officer because he was convinced that judges and officials in the United States, West Germany. the Soviet Union and Costa Rica who had ruled Koziy was guilty of atrocities and Nazi collaboration during World War II were "confused" about his identity.
However, others close to the extradition hearings in 1987 said the nation's top prelate acted on pressure from the Vatican and the Ukrainian Church-in-exile. It is unclear how much Arrieta's lobbying helped keep Koziy from being sent to the USSR to face trial.
"I became absolutely convinced of Mr. Koziy's innocence, both from conversations with Mr. Koziy as from documents which showed that this man was being confused with another." Arrieta told The Tico Times this week. "It was not just through Mr. Koziy's statements that I arrived at the conclusion that there really was an injustice being committed." He also said he was provided the documents by "impartial people.” No such documents were ever presented in any court of law.
THE Koziy case has drawn renewed attention with the 50th anniversary of D-Day Monday and a call by the World Jewish Congress for Costa Rica to declare Koziy, now 71, persona non grata (TT, June 3).
Last Friday, President Jose Maria Figueres said his government will review Koziy's presence in Costa Rica. "With all the respect the World Jewish Congress deserves, with pleasure we will review this case," he said.
In 1987, Arrieta expressed "solidarity" with a letter by Ukrainian Archbishop-in exile Ivan Lubachivinsky, which said Koziy was being "falsely accused by the communists and the Jews." Arrieta this week defended his stand, although he refused to say whether he believes Koziy was indeed the victim of a communist/Jewish plot. "If (Cardinal Lubachivinsky) spoke, in the way in which he spoke he had to have had his reasons," Arrieta said.
"I am not making these affirmations,” the primate added. "I do not want you to put me as fighting with our Jewish brothers."
BUT Jewish leaders are upset with comments Arrieta made to the daily newspaper La Nacion when the World Jewish Congress issued its initial statement on Koziy earlier this month (TT, June 3). The Archbishop was quoted as saying he believes in person's innocence until he is proven guilty.
"I must express shock at Msgr. Arrieta' comments," World Jewish Congress executive director Elan Steinberg said last week. Steinberg, who played a key role in exposing the Nazi past of former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, added “We plan to send (the matter) to the highest Church authorities. The question of Koziy's guilt is not in doubt."
Arrieta said he would welcome a complaint by the Congress to the Vatican, which is in the process of mending fences with Jews worldwide.
"I would be very happy if they did that," Arrieta said. "The Vatican acts in the same way I have acted in this matter, with respect to protecting innocent people."
ARTURO Fournier, who served as the lawyer for the Soviet Embassy during the 1987 extradition hearings, pins much of the blame for the failure of the extradition proceedings on Arrieta. He said the Archbishop's actions in favor of Koziy prompted him to meet with Arrieta and show him the U.S. Federal Court rulings stripping Koziy of his U.S. citizenship and finding him responsible for murdering a four-year old Jewish girl and participating in the murder of a Jewish family, among other crimes. ''I went to talk with Arrieta to say that as a [Roman] Catholic, it seem strange to me that he would be defending a criminal," Fournier recalled this week, adding that after the meeting, the Archbishop promised not to publicly defend Koziy any more, and he kept his promise.
The local judge hearing Koziy's extradition case ruled he could be extradited only on condition that President Oscar Arias' Foreign Minister, Rodrigo Madrigal, certify that Koziy would not receive the death penalty in the Soviet Union (TT, March 20, 1987).
Costa Rica does not have a death penalty, and routinely demands such assurances in extradition cases. Madrigal did not accept a letter from Soviet Ambassador Yuri Pavlov as a guarantee and Koziy was freed and allowed to remain in Costa Rica (TT, June 12, 1987).
MADRIGAL this week said he could not remember details of the case, but said he believes the Foreign Ministry determined that it was unable to intervene in the matter.
Koziy's resident investor status in Costa Rica was confirmed when the Immigration Department ruled he could stay here "indefinitely." The ruling came six days after then Vice-Minister of the Interior and head of the Immigration Council Alvaro Ramos resigned in a spat with Minister of the Interior Rolando Ramirez (TT, Sept. 11, 1987).
Ramos this week said he opposed letting Koziy stay in Costa Rica.
"Under no circumstances should Costa Rica be a refuge for Nazis," he said. "My position was very strong, and I continue to believe that he should not be allowed to be in the country. "The evidence I had showed that Mr. Koziy did not tell the truth, and that, for me, is irrefutable," Ramos added. "I have no reason to believe he told us the truth when he denied being a Nazi collaborator." Koziy could not be reached for comment.
ACCUSED war criminal Koziy: subject of renewed debate.
Monsignor Arrieta: convinced of Koziy's innocence. )