Convicted Nazi guard Demjanjuk loses US court appeal on extradition

Convicted Nazi guard John Demjanjuk on Monday lost a US Supreme Court appeal that sought to overturn an order by the nation's chief immigration judge that he be deported to his native Ukraine.

Without comment, the high court refused to hear an appeal by the 88-year old retired Ohio auto worker that argued the immigration judge lacked the authority to order his deportation. The rejection of the appeal marked the latest development in a legal battle between Demjanjuk and the US Justice Department that began in 1977.

Demjanjuk was once wrongly convicted of being the sadistic Nazi death camp guard "Ivan the Terrible" and sentenced to death in Israel. The conviction was later overturned when new evidence showed another man was probably "Ivan" at the Treblinka death camp.

However Demjanjuk was stripped of his US Citizenship again in 2002, when a federal judge ruled he had been a guard at three other Nazi death camps in Poland and Germany. Demjanjuk has said he was drafted into the Soviet Army and was captured by the Germans. He has denied that he ever helped the Nazis.

Noah Flug, Chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, expressed the hope that Demjanjuk would be punished appropriately in Ukraine. "It is important that he receive his punishment, even if it comes late," he said.

Flug added that he believed many Holocaust survivors would feel that justice had been served. "I know of too many murderers that deserved the death sentence, but were released and lived their lives in peace. It doesn't matter if he was 'Ivan the Terrible' or not, he is a murderer because he was a guard at the camps."

'This is useless to us'

Joseph Charny, one of the five remaining survivors of the Treblinka death camp who also served as a witness for the prosecution during Demjanjuk's trial in Israel, was less optimistic. "He has already lived his life, and in Ukraine he will be received with open arms. We, the survivors, are nearing the end and this is useless to us," he remarked.

Regarding Israel's overturning of Demjanjuk's death sentence, Charny said, "He knew how to act in the trial so they released that murderer. I don't understand why they did it, they should have done the same thing they did to Adolf Eichman."

Demjanjuk has argued that Chief US Immigration Judge Michael Creppy did not have the authority to order his deportation. Creppy can only do administrative, not adjudicative, duties, Demjanjuk's lawyers said. But a Board of Immigration Appeals and a US Appeals court based in Cincinnati rejected Demjanjuk's arguments, prompting his appeal to the Supreme Court.

The deportation order, issued in 2005, says that Demjanjuk can be sent to Germany or Poland, as an alternative, if Ukraine refuses to accept him.

Demjanjuk's lawyers have said he could be prosecuted and face harsh prison conditions or even torture if he is sent back to Ukraine, but Creppy and then the Board of Immigration Appeals said there was no evidence to support those claims.

Demjanjuk immigrated to the United States in 1952 and became a naturalized citizen in 1958. He was first stripped of his US citizenship in 1981 and extradited to Israel, where he was sentenced to death in 1988 on eyewitness testimony from Holocaust survivors that he was the Ivan of the Treblinka camp, but his death sentence was overturned in 1993 after newly released records from the former Soviet Union showed Ivan Marchenko was probably the sadistic guard at Treblinka.

The United States restored Demjanjuk's citizenship in 1998, but the following year the US Justice Department re-filed its case against him on the grounds that he had been a Nazi guard at three other death camps.

[Source: Reuters in News.com, Washington, 19May08]

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