John Demjanjuk's deportation to Germany halted by judge.

A federal judge stopped the deportation of John Demjanjuk late Friday, the latest twist in a legal journey over his wartime past.

U.S. Immigration Judge Wayne Iskra's order means the 89-year-old retired autoworker Demjanjuk can remain in his Seven Hills home until the judge decides whether sending him to Germany would constitute torture, as his family claims. A decision could take anywhere from days to a few months.

"There's a reason John Demjanjuk is still in Seven Hills today: He's not the guy," Demjanjuk's son, John Jr., said in an interview in his Richfield home after the ruling.

The elder Demjanjuk was to arrive Monday in Munich, where he was expected to be brought to trial on charges of accessory to commit murder in the deaths of at least 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

German prosecutors are prepared to show that Demjanjuk worked as a Nazi guard who walked Jews from the rail cars to the gas chambers, according to court records and published reports. The prosecutors have Nazi documents first used in Cleveland nearly 10 years ago to help prove their point.

In 2002, U.S. District Judge Paul Matia said Demjanjuk lied about his wartime past when he entered the United States in 1952 and stripped Demjanjuk of his citizenship, saying he "contributed to the process by which thousands of Jews were murdered by asphyxiation with carbon monoxide" at the Sobibor camp.

Demjanjuk's family claims that he is too frail to go to Germany. They said he can't get out of bed, let alone care for himself. They said he has a blood disease, chronic kidney disease and severe pain in his hips, back and legs.

In court filings, they said the plane ride to Germany, his arrest and jailing there and a trial would amount to torture. But U.S. Justice Department lawyers denied that.

They said there is no evidence to prove that a German trial would amount to torture, only Demjanjuk's own subjective fears. They claim Demjanjuk's motions were a legal "Hail Mary" that sought to put aside several U.S. judges' rulings that said he should be deported.

On Friday, Demjanjuk's attorneys filed a video of an immigration doctor examining him on Thursday. It showed Demjanjuk in his bed, moaning as a doctor helped him sit up.

"What happens to me over there?" Demjanjuk Sr. said in the video. "You don't care. Because who goes behind me [when] I need help? I have here my family to help me. Who [will] help me over there, huh?"

Demjanjuk's case began in 1977, when he was first accused of being "Ivan the Terrible," a sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp. He was extradited to Israel, convicted and sentenced to death before the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the conviction.

He came home, but federal prosecutors later accused him of working at Sobibor and other camps. He was ordered deported in 2005, though no country would accept him until Germany did earlier this year.

[Source: By John Caniglia, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, 04Apr09]

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