'A hero's welcome' awaits Demjanjuk in Ukraine

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The Independent Online
CLEARED in Israel last week of being the death camp guard 'Ivan the Terrible', John Demjanjuk is due to fly today to his native Ukraine, where supporters have called for him to receive a hero's welcome. It will be his first visit to his homeland since he was conscripted into the Red Army in 1941.

Before he leaves Israel, witnesses who testified at his original trial were appealing against the Supreme Court decision not to try him on lesser charges. The court ruled that, although Mr Demjanjuk was not the Treblinka guard 'Ivan', he had worked as an SS guard at Nazi concentration camps.

The appeal stands little chance of success and Mr Demjanjuk appears certain today to have his first taste of freedom since he was brought to Israel from the United States for trial in 1986, having first been stripped of his US citizenship. Now aged 73, he had worked in a car factory in Ohio.

After Thursday's ruling the authorities said that he was to be deported, but he remained in in jail while his family frantically tried to find a country to take him.

Ukraine is the only country to have shown readiness to have him. Leonid Kravchuk, the Ukrainian President, said yesterday that any application for citizenship by Mr Demjanjuk would be considered. The Ukrainian Demjanjuk Defence Committee, which has campaigned for his freedom, said it was expecting him to arrive in Kiev this afternoon and appealed to citizens to turn out at the airport to greet him.

'For 16 years he was unjustly accused of being the biggest murderer in human history,' it said. 'Together with Demjanjuk, all the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state were harmed morally by this big lie.'

But Mr Demjanjuk has not given up hope of returning to the US and on Tuesday his lawyers will attempt to persuade a judge in Cincinnati that the Israeli verdict invalidates the removal of his citizenship. However, the US court is expected to decide, as it did at an earlier hearing, that the extradition also covered lesser war crimes charges.

War crimes, page 6

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