US court blocks extradition of alleged Nazi war criminal | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.04.2009
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US court blocks extradition of alleged Nazi war criminal

Suspected Nazi concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk's lawyers have successfully blocked an eleventh hour attempt to deport him from the US to Germany where he would face charges for alleged war atrocities.

An indentification card for John Demjanjuk

Germany suspects John Demjanjuk of being a Nazi guard

A US court has blocked the deportation of a man accused of being a Nazi death camp guard just two days before he was to have been sent to Germany to face charges in connection with the deaths of 29,000 Jewish people in 1943.

John Demjanjuk was expected to be extradited to Germany by Monday. The immigration judge granted the motion for the stay of extradition until the question of whether the case against Demjanjuk should be reopened is decided.

Eighty-nine year-old Demjanjuk was acquitted in 1993 by the Israeli Supreme Court of charges that he worked at the infamous Treblinka death camp, after former guards identified another man as "Ivan the Terrible." Germany, however, now suspects him of working as a Nazi guard at the Sobibor concentration camp, in occupied Poland, where thousands of Jews were put to death in 1943.

Munich prosecutors issued a warrant three weeks ago for the arrest of the Ukrainian-born man, who has been stripped of his US citizenship and is now officially stateless.

Demjanjuk was sentenced to death in 1988 in an Israeli court, but the sentence was overturned five years later by Israel's Supreme Court.

Demjanjuk denies guilt

John Demjanjuk in a court room

Demjanjuk continues to fight plans to deport him to Germany

Last month the US administration finalized plans to deport John Demjanjuk to Germany to face charges that he was complicit in the murder at least 29,000 Jewish people as a Nazi death camp guard. Germany issued an arrest warrant for the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, the culmination of years of legal proceedings that have attempted to link the retired auto worker with WWII atrocities.

Demjanjuk denies any involvement in war crimes. He has said he was in the Soviet army and a prisoner of war in 1942 before resettling in the United States after the war.

Munich prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Demjanjuk, accusing the retired autoworker of being an accessory in the killings of thousands of Jews between March and September 1943.

Demjanjuk's defense counsel filed an appeal Thursday to avoid extradition to Germany, arguing the move would be tantamount to torture.

Legal battle

John Demjanjuk arrives at the federal building in Cleveland.

The US has said it will deport Demjanjuk

In Washington, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said it "is working closely with the government of Germany to secure Demjanjuk's removal from the United States," according to spokeswoman Laura Sweeney.

In 2008 the Simon Wiesenthal Center ranked Demjanjuk number two on its "most wanted" Nazi criminal list, behind Aribert Heim, nicknamed "Doctor Death," who according to a recent investigation died in 1992.

German prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Demjanjuk in March, accusing him of serving for six months in 1943 at the Sobibor death camp in Poland.

The US Office for Special Investigations (OSI) described Sobibor as "as close an approximation of Hell as has ever been created on this planet."

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