Demjanjuk's history outrages all sides

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The Independent Online
JERUSALEM - As efforts continued last night to find a country for John Demjanjuk, a survivor of Treblinka death camp said he would challenge the decision of Israel's Supreme Court not to pursue lesser charges against the man cleared on Thursday of being 'Ivan the Terrible', writes Sarah Helm.

While acquitting Mr Demjanjuk of being the gas-chamber operator at Treblinka death camp in Poland, the Supreme Court nevertheless accepted evidence that he was an SS collaborator and a concentration camp guard.

This section of the ruling has provoked fury on all sides. Mr Demjanjuk's lawyer and family accuse the court of permanently tarnishing Mr Demjanjuk by finding him guilty on charges with which he was never tried. As a result, no country - save possibly his native Ukraine - is in a hurry to open its doors, and Mr Demjanjuk, though technically freed, remained yesterday in jail for his own protection.

Questioned in prison after the verdict, Mr Demjanjuk said that he would like to tour Israel when he finally got out. He said he had seen all about the country on television. But he accepted that this might not be possible.

Mr Demjanjuk's family are still hoping that the United States, which stripped him of citizenship in 1981, will allow him to return. His lawyer, Yoram Sheftel, said yesterday that an appeal for citizenship was to be undertaken.

Ed Nishnic, Mr Demjanjuk's son-in-law, conceded that the court's finding that his father- in-law was a concentration camp guard, or Wachmann, if not Ivan the Terrible, had not encouraged states to offer him citizenship or residency. 'We have had discussions with many, many countries. Ukraine is an option, maybe.'

Mr Sheftel said the judge's comments in relation to the Wachmann charges, on which he had not had a chance to defend himself and for which he had not been charged, were 'unprecedented' and, not for the first time, he attacked the Israeli prosecutors and the courts for 'conspiracy' and 'injustice' in the case.

A Treblinka survivor, Jacob Epstein, has launched a legal action challenging whether the court had the right to uphold evidence against Mr Demjanjuk on the lesser charges without trying him on them.