Linnas was tried in absentia and sentenced to death by a Soviet court in 1962 on charges that during the German occupation, between 1941 and 1943, he was the commandant of a Nazi concentration camp at Tartu and had personally shot innocent civilians—men, women and children. After Soviet armies pushed the Germans out of Estonia, Linnas fought with the German army and was wounded in 1944. Then he stayed in Displaced Persons camps in Germany until emigrating to the USA in 1951.
Mr. Linnas worked as a land surveyor, living quietly in Greenlawn, New York, until 1979, when U.S. immigration officials charged him with making false statements to gain entry to the United States.
In 1981 the Federal District Court in Westbury, New York, stripped then-62-year-old Linnas of his U.S. citizenship for having lied to immigration officials thirty years earlier about his Nazi past. Linnas's crimes, the judge said, "were such as to offend the decency of any civilized society." A 1986 federal appeals court upheld his deportation order, ruling that the evidence against the defendant was "overwhelming and largely uncontroverted."
On April 20, 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a final appeal. At that point Linnas was flown to the Soviet Union and almost three months later died in a prison hospital in then-Leningrad while awaiting trial (July 2, 1987). Linnas became the second naturalized American to be sent to the Soviet Union to face a pending death sentence, after Feodor Fedorenko, whose execution occurred in 1987, the same year of Linnas' deportation.