Thursday 02 April 2009
An official ID of Demjanjuk, now 88 years old. This is one of seven documents used by prosecutors to convince Germany's Federal Court of Justice to bring Demjanjuk, a former Nazi guard, to trial for the deaths of 29,000 people at death camps in Poland. (Photo: San Francisco Sentinel)
Berlin - Suspected Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk is likely to arrive in Germany on Monday to face charges of complicity in the murder of 29,000 Jews despite a last ditch effort to block his extradition, his German lawyer said.
"If nothing else happens between now and then that's how it will be," Munich-based lawyer Guenther Maull said on Thursday.
A petition filed by Demjanjuk on Wednesday to prevent his deportation from the United States was unlikely to change this.
"This attempt seems to have failed," Maull said.
Prosecutors in Munich have accused Demjanjuk of being an accessory in the killings of Jews between March and September 1943 at the Sobibor death camp, now in Poland.
Born in Ukraine, Demjanjuk denies any involvement in war crimes. He has said he was in the Soviet army and a prisoner of war in 1942. He later went to the United States.
Maull said he expected Demjanjuk, who turns 89 on Friday, to be taken from his home in Cleveland to New York, and then on to Munich in the company of a doctor, a nurse and a police officer.
Demjanjuk's son has said the retired car worker is suffering from a bone disease, kidney failure and other ailments, and would likely die before the case is resolved.
If he arrives, Demjanjuk is unlikely to be able to return home before the case is concluded, Maull said, noting it was still open as to how fit to stand trial his client was.
"The Americans will be pleased to get rid of him as they've already ordered his deportation," he said. "The only reason it hasn't happened yet is because no country would take him."
Given Demjanjuk's age, Maull said authorities ought to accelerate proceedings if they want a result, noting it was not clear how quickly his client could be brought to trial.
"In terms of the case, he must first be given the right to respond to the accusations. I will advise him to say nothing," Maull said. "Then he'll have had a right to a hearing, and that's when he can be formally charged."
As a rule, it took four or five months for trials to begin in the Munich court once charges had been made, Maull said. The case itself was unlikely to be over quickly, he added.
Maull said prosecutors argued that irrespective of how Demjanjuk had behaved individually, he was automatically complicit in the murder of Jews if he had worked in a detail that oversaw their removal from trains to the gas chambers.
"Whether this argument will suffice right up to the Federal Court of Justice (Germany's court of last resort on matters of criminal law) as proof of guilt ... is questionable. We've not had this before, so we'd be entering new legal terrain."
Demjanjuk was stripped of his U.S. citizenship after he was accused in the 1970s of being "Ivan the Terrible," a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp.
He was extradited to Israel in 1986, and sentenced to death in 1988 after Holocaust survivors identified him as a Treblinka guard. But Israel's Supreme Court overturned his conviction when new evidence showed another man was probably "Ivan."
He regained his citizenship in 1998, but the U.S. Justice Department refiled its case against him in 1999, arguing he had worked for the Nazis as a guard at three other death camps and hid the facts. His U.S. citizenship was stripped again in 2002.