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Judge rejects Demjanjuk claim that documents withheld

JTA

December 21, 2011 | 10:27 am

John Demjanjuk in 1943

John Demjanjuk in 1943

A federal judge in Cleveland rejected a claim by convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk that U.S. prosecutors withheld documents that could have helped his case.

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster ruled Tuesday that a 1985 FBI memo that questioned the legitimacy of a Nazi identification card placing Demjanjuk at the Trawniki guard camp was immaterial to his case.

Polster said that because internal FBI documents are merely speculative, they did not need to be turned over to the defense, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He also said that Demjanjuk “willfully lied about his whereabouts during the war,” which led to the revocation of his U.S. citizenship.

Federal public defender Dennis Terez had claimed that prosecutors withheld documents that could have helped Demjanjuk’s case. Terez had asked the judge to order a hearing to determine why prosecutors did not turn over the 1985 memo and to allow Demjanjuk, now 91, to return to the United States in order to defend himself.

Demjanjuk, a retired Cleveland-area autoworker, was extradited to Germany in 2009 to face charges of being an accessory to more than 28,000 deaths at the Sobibor Nazi concentration camp. A Munich court in May found Demjanjuk guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to five years in prison; he is residing in a German nursing home while the case is appealed.

Demjanjuk is stateless and has no passport. He cannot enter the United States unless Polster decides to overturn a 2002 denaturalization order. Demjanjuk’s citizenship was revoked for lying about his Nazi past to gain citizenship. The U.S. government has asked Polster not to reopen the citizenship case.

In the early 1980s, Demjanjuk was accused of being the notorious guard “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka death camp. He was deported to Israel in 1986 and sentenced to death in 1988, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1993 after finding reasonable doubt that he was the guard in question.

“Holocaust survivors welcome the court’s decision and are relieved that this convicted war criminal will not set foot in the United States again,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants. “Demjanjuk lied to get into this country and his ongoing efforts to cover up his terrible past have been foiled.”

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