- - Sunday, September 23, 2012

MINSK — Belarus held parliamentary elections Sunday without the main opposition parties, which boycotted the vote to protest the detention of political prisoners and opportunities for election fraud.

The election is to fill 110 seats in parliament, which long has been reduced to a rubber stamp by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet nation since 1994.

Western observers have criticized all recent elections in Belarus as undemocratic.

Mr. Lukashenko’s landslide win in a 2010 presidential election triggered a mass street protest that was brutally suppressed, and any rallies after the parliamentary vote would be certain to draw a similar harsh response.

GERMANY

Philadelphia man target of Nazi probe

BERLIN — Germany has launched a war crimes investigation against an 87-year-old Philadelphia man it accuses of serving as an SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp, the Associated Press has learned, following years of failed U.S. Justice Department efforts to have the man stripped of his American citizenship and deported.

Johann “Hans” Breyer, a retired toolmaker, acknowledges he was a guard at Auschwitz during World War II but told the AP he was stationed outside the facility and had nothing to do with the wholesale slaughter of some 1.5 million Jews and others behind the gates.

The special German office that investigates Nazi war crimes has recommended that prosecutors charge him with accessory to murder and extradite him to Germany for trial on suspicion of involvement in the killing of at least 344,000 Jews at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in occupied Poland.

The AP also has obtained documents that raise doubts about Mr. Breyer’s testimony about the timing of his departure from Auschwitz.

The case is being pursued on the same legal theory used to prosecute Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who died in March while appealing his conviction in Germany on charges he served as a guard at the notorious Sobibor death camp, also in occupied Poland.

The conviction is not considered legally binding because Mr. Demjanjuk died before his appeals were exhausted.

But prosecutors maintain they can still use the same legal argument to pursue Mr. Breyer.

RUSSIA

Drunken driver kills 7 at bus stop

MOSCOW — Moscow police said they had detained more than 130 drunken drivers over the past 24 hours, including a man who crashed his car into a bus stop, killing seven people and injuring three.

Police said the car was traveling more than 120 mph when the driver lost control and slammed into the bus stop.

The Interfax news agency reported that the 30-year-old driver, Alexander Maximov, had been arrested for drunken driving in 2010 and told police that before Saturday’s accident, he had been drinking for two days. The driver also had received two speeding tickets this year.

Police report numerous arrests of drunken drivers, but the accident rate remains high, compounded by drivers who routinely speed and disobey traffic rules.

ITALY

Police nab fake pilot

ROME — Italian police describe it as a real-life sequel to “Catch Me If You Can,” the hit movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the true story about an ingenious con artist masquerading as a commercial airline pilot.

An unemployed 32-year-old Italian man was stopped at Turin’s Caselle airport on suspicion he successfully used false IDs, a cap and uniform to convince a crew he was a pilot and let him fly for free inside the cockpit aboard a commercial flight from Munich, Germany, to Turin, Carabinieri paramilitary police said Saturday.

Police said two real pilots flew the Air Dolomiti plane on the flight in April. The man, who wasn’t identified, didn’t touch the controls while in the cockpit.

Police caught up with the man at the Turin airport terminal Wednesday after tailing him for months and receiving a tip.

On his Facebook profile, the man also falsely bragged he was a commercial pilot and claimed he was promoted to captain’s rank while still young.

A police statement said the suspect was cited for suspicion of putting at risk the security of air transport and “usurping a title,” and was allowed to stay free on his own recognizance while the investigation continues.

From wire dispatches and staff reports