Panel to query Czech defector on MIA report

November 10, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The search for soldiers still listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War is being expanded to Czechoslovakia and the files of other East European countries as a result of information from a high-level Czech military defector, who has told Senate investigators that U.S. POWs spent time in Czech hospitals before being sent to the former Soviet Union.

According to a confidential memorandum prepared for the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs, a former Czech general who now works for the Defense Intelligence Agency has said that before his 1968 defection, he saw intelligence reports on at least two groups of POWs, each numbering about 25 men, who passed through Czech hospitals en route to Soviet imprisonment.

While some intelligence officials are clearly skeptical of the claim, congressional sources said the Senate committee planned to ask Czech officials to investigate information it received last month from Maj. Gen. Jan Sejna, secretary of the Czech Defense Council before he defected.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the committee chairman, refused to comment on the startling claim or the memo, written by two committee investigators who interviewed General Sejna at the Defense Intelligence Agency's headquarters Oct. 21.

But he said that the committee planned to take a statement from the general and that it would ask former East Bloc countries for cooperation in checking his claim. The CIA has also been asked to investigate, other sources said.

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