Last-minute plea delays Demjanjuk expulsion: Supreme Court blocks deportation to Ukraine as right-wingers demand new trial

Sarah Helm
Sunday 01 August 1993 23:02

THE DEMJANJUK family were at the airport, waiting to accompany John Demjanjuk, cleared of being 'Ivan the Terrible', on to his flight to a new life in Ukraine, when they were told the news: 10 more days in jail, 10 more days of uncertainty.

'This torture - it has got to stop,' said Ed Nishnic, Mr Demjanjuk's son-in-law, who had waited 16 years to see the name Demjanjuk cleared, and believed victory had come when the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that John Demjanjuk could go free.

Ukraine, where Mr Demjan juk, 73, was born, was the only country willing to take him, stripped, as he was in 1981, of US citizenship. But just a few hours before the plane was due to take off yesterday, an appeal was made to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, calling for new charges, of other war crimes, to be brought against Mr Demjanjuk. The court ruled that it needed 10 days to consider the appeal, and ordered Mr Demjanjuk back to jail.

Four days earlier, ruling on the 'Ivan the Terrible' charge, the Supreme Court unanimously decided these separate charges, though substantiated in the course of the original trial, could not be the subject of a conviction. Mr Demjanjuk had not had sufficent opportunity to defend himself because these other offences were not the main allegations against him. The court also said the charges should not be the subject of a new trial because too many years had passed.

On Thursday the court, showing some magnanimity, let the ailing Mr Demjanjuk, who had already spent 16 years in jail, go free. Yesterday there were accusations of 'twisting the knife' and of 'indecision' when the court changed its mind. The appeal was brought by the extremist right-wing Kach party, along with a Holocaust survivor, Yisrael Yehezkieli, who served a two-year sentence for throwing acid in the face of the defence lawyer, Yoram Sheftel. Noam Federman, spokesman for Kach, said: 'Thank God the court has ruled to hold up deportation of this Nazi from the country. It is an important principle that a Nazi be tried, whether he killed one Jew or many.'

It had been expected that Mr Demjanjuk would be cleared of being 'Ivan the Terrible', the gas-chamber operator at Treblinka. New evidence, drawn from Soviet files, and based on statements of Treblinka guards, named another man, Ivan Mar chenko, as 'Ivan'.

But what few were sure of was how the court would tackle separate evidence, raised during the trial, that Mr Demjanjuk was a Wachmann (SS guard) at a number of death-camps in Poland. These guards, usually Russian prisoners of war, were recruited by the Nazis to help round up Jews, as part of the Final Solution, the judges said. Mr Demjanjuk, who denied all charges, claimed that throughout the period the prosecution said he was collaborating with the SS he was in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp at Chelm. The court said he was lying, but set him free.

BERLIN - The commandant of Treblinka, where as many as 900,000 Jews were tortured and killed, was released about two weeks ago on probation after almost 30 years in prison, sources said yesterday, AP reports. Kurt Franz, 79, was convicted in 1965 of war crimes and sentenced to life in prison.

Gitta Sereny, page 19

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