March 31, 2009
Genocide trial subject
Arnold Meri, 89, a decorated Red Army veteran charged with genocide for deporting hundreds of his Estonian countrymen to Siberia in 1949, died Friday at his home in Tallinn, Estonia.
In 2007, Estonian prosecutors charged Meri with genocide, claiming he oversaw the roundup and deportation of 251 civilians on the island of Hiiumaa, 90 miles west of Tallinn, in March 1949. During that month, Soviet authorities organized large deportations in Estonia and its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania of people considered to be enemies of the Soviet Union.
Prosecutors said the Hiiumaa deportees, including women and children, were shipped to the mainland and then by train to labor camps in Siberia, where many of them died.
During the trial, Meri acknowledged taking part in the deportations but pleaded not guilty to genocide, claiming he was just carrying out orders as a civil servant. The case was adjourned several times because of Meri's failing health and had not been completed at the time of his death.
The genocide charges have angered Moscow, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reacted to the news of Meri's death by awarding him a posthumous medal of honor.
Carol Jean Vigil
Native American district judge
Carol Jean Vigil, 61, the first Native American woman to be elected as a state district judge in the United States, died Friday at her home in Tesuque Pueblo, N.M., her family said. She had a number of health problems, her husband, Philip Palmer, said.
She was elected to New Mexico's 1st Judicial District in 1998. She was also the first pueblo Indian woman to pass the state's bar examination.
Vigil earned her bachelor's and law degrees at the University of New Mexico.
She served as assistant state attorney general under Jeff Bingaman, who is now a U.S. senator, and in the mid-1980s went into private practice, her husband said.
As a tribal lawyer for Tesuque Pueblo, she wrote the tribal codes for Tesuque and Taos pueblos, Palmer said.
In 1988, Vigil was hired by the 1st Judicial District, which includes Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties, to be a child support hearing officer. Later she was named special commissioner for domestic violence and mental competency.
She retired from the bench in 2005, citing health reasons.
-- times wire reports email@example.com
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