- The 98-year-old man is accused of being responsible for the deaths of 44 people in 1944
- Polish authorities are seeking his arrest and extradition to stand trial for war crimes
The man, identified by his family as Michael Karkoc, is accused of being responsible for the deaths of 44 people in 1944, Polish officials said in a statement.
Karkoc's family denied the allegations against him. "It's insane, it's uncompressible," his son, Andriy Karkoc, told reporters in a news conference Saturday. "We talk a lot about fake news but this is fake history."
The younger Karkoc called for the judge to release all evidence against his father, who he says suffers from Alzheimer's disease. "We ask the governments of Poland, Ukraine and the United States of America to allow humanity to prevail and to bring an end to this baseless attacks on a 98-year-old man," he said.
Polish investigators had been working since 2013 to identify a commander of the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, a Nazi paramilitary police organization, who ordered his solders to kill residents and burn the buildings of three rural villages near Lublin. The commander's actions are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Their attention turned to the Minnesota man when they examined a list of salaries signed by the commander and compared his handwriting with materials from an American source, officials said.
"We had some pieces of the puzzle. We knew that the crime in question had been committed by the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which Michael K. was a member of, and that there is a person with the same surname living in the United States," the Polish Institute of National Remembrance said in a statement.
US authorities still need to decide whether to extradite Karkoc, but Polish authorities have said his age would not interfere with the process. They expect him to stand trial before a Polish court if their request is approved.
This is not the first time Karkoc has faced these allegations.
In 2013, the Associated Press published stories identifying Karkoc
as the commander who ordered the 1944 attack on a Polish village.
The Associated Press reported that evidence they had reviewed showed Karkoc concealed his role in the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion from US officials when he entered the country in 1949.