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Demjanjuk stays in jail for 13 days

JERUSALEM - The Israeli Supreme Court yesterday gave Nazi-hunters 13 more days to offer enough new evidence against John Demjanjuk to warrant re- trying him on fresh war crimes charges, writes Sarah Helm.

The ruling means that Mr Demjanjuk, whose bags have been packed ever since he was cleared on 29 July of being 'Ivan the Terrible', must remain in jail, still uncertain whether he is to be allowed to go free.

Since the July acquittal, nine petitioners, including Holocaust survivors and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which hunts down Nazis, have successfully blocked Mr Demjanjuk's release. They have called on the Israeli courts to try Mr Demjanjuk for other war crimes offences. Although the appeal court judges who acquitted Mr Demjanjuk of being Ivan the Terrible said at the time that the other offences were substantiated, they chose not to order another trial, thereby opening themselves to attack by Nazi-hunters.

The court's determination now to hear every petition calling for a re-trial appears to be an attempt to answer criticisms. The other allegations are that Mr Demjanjuk was an SS camp guard, a Wachmann.

The delay in Mr Demjanjuk's release have led to emotional scenes outside the court where his continued suffering has been welcomed by the petitioners. 'I'm happy for every day that Demjanjuk is suffering,' said Noam Federman yesterday, representing the ultra-right Kach party, one of the petitioners.

Mr Demjanjuk's family appear to be taking a philosophical attitude, confident that he is on his way to freedom. He hopes to return to the US, from where he was extradited in 1986. Separate legal proceeding are under way in the US in which Mr Demjanjuk is arguing for his right to return to his home in Cleveland.

'We are certainly disappointed that the inevitable, which is the freedom of my father, has been delayed,' said John Jr, Mr Demjanjuk's son.

Mr Demjanjuk's lawyer, Yoram Sheftel, however, was more critical: 'There is no precedent in Israel that someone who was acquitted by five Supreme Court judges is still sitting in prison three weeks later.'