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Germany

Prosecutors seek six-year sentence for alleged Nazi death camp guard

Prosecutors are seeking a six-year sentence for John Demjanjuk's alleged role in the killings of thousands of Jews at the Sobibor death camp. This is expected to be one of Germany's last war crimes trial.

John Demjanjuk

Demjanjuk's health issues prolonged the trial

German prosecutors have called for a six-year sentence for John Demjanjuk for his alleged role in the killings of thousands of Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

In his closing arguments, State Prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz said there was "no reasonable doubt" about Demjanjuk's involvement in the crimes committed at the Sobibor camp between March and September 1943.

"Anyone with as much guilt as this must be punished - even at such an advanced age and even 60 years after the crime was committed," Lutz told a Munich court.

Prosecutors could have asked for a sentence of up to 15 years for Demjanjuk, 90, who was deported from the United States to face trial in Germany in 2009. Lutz said that one reason he asked for a shorter sentence was the time Demjanjuk had already served time behind bars in Israel.

An Israeli court sentenced Demjanjuk to death in 1988 after he was convicted of war crimes as "Ivan the Terrible," a guard at the Treblinka camp, where 870,000 people died. That sentence was overturned in 1993 after Israel's supreme court found that they likely had the wrong man.

Monument at Sobibor

A monument commemorates those killed at Sobibor

Demjanjuk, who was born in Ukraine, was serving with the Red Army when he was captured by the Nazis and became a prisoner of war in 1942.

"The accused was at first a victim of German aggression," Lutz said. "Then he became a perpetrator with his participation in the murder of Jews."

Part of the case against Demjanjuk focused on whether he had been in a position to escape the Nazis. Lutz argued that other men in a similar position had managed to do so.

Charges denied

Through his lawyer, Demjanjuk, who emigrated to the United States in 1951 and became a US citizen seven years later, has denied any role in the Holocaust. He also denies having worked at the Sobibor camp, where 250,000 Jews were killed.

His lawyer, Ulrich Busch, said he would demand that his client walk out of the court a free man.

The 16-month-long case faced a numerous delays due to the ill health of the defendant. A verdict in the case could come as soon as May 12.

Author: Chuck Penfold (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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