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Germany issues warrant for Nazi guard suspect
Wed Mar 11, 2009 11:12pm EDT
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By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN (Reuters) - German prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for 88-year-old U.S. resident John Demjanjuk on suspicion he helped in the murders of at least 29,000 Jews as a Nazi death camp guard, they said Wednesday.
Demjanjuk is accused of being an accessory in the killings of Jews between March and September 1943 at the Sobibor death camp, now in Poland, prosecutors in the southern German city of Munich said in a statement.
They are looking at extraditing the retired auto worker.
"As soon as the accused is in Germany, (we) intend to examine him and charge him with being an accessory to 29,000 murders," the prosecutors said in the statement.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Demjanjuk denies any involvement in war crimes. He has said he was in the Soviet army and a prisoner of war in 1942. He later went to the United States.
Stripped of his U.S. citizenship after he was accused in the 1970s of being "Ivan the Terrible," a guard at the Treblinka death camp, Demjanjuk was first extradited to Israel in 1986.
He was sentenced to death in 1988 after Holocaust survivors identified him as a guard at Treblinka, where 870,000 people died. But the Israeli Supreme Court overturned his conviction when new evidence showed another man was probably the notorious "Ivan."
Demjanjuk returned to his home near Cleveland in 1993 and the United States restored his citizenship in 1998. He was stripped of his citizenship for a second time in 2002.
The U.S. Justice Department refilled its case against him in 1999, arguing he had worked for the Nazis as a guard at three other death camps and hid these facts when he immigrated.
Last year, Germany's chief Nazi war crimes investigator, Kurt Schrimm, asked prosecutors in Munich, where Demjanjuk lived before he emigrated to the United States, to charge him with involvement in the murder of 29,000 Jews.
Schrimm said his office had evidence Demjanjuk had been a guard at the Sobibor death camp and personally led Jews to the gas chambers there.
Demjanjuk's former son-in-law, Ed Nishnic, said there had not been an extradition request and it would take a few weeks.
Nishnic, who acts as the family spokesman, said the arrest warrant was the result of "relentless political pressure" on the German government from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which hunts Nazi war crimes suspects.
"Their position is 'Kill him before he dies' and our position is 'Justice must be seen to be done'," Nishnic said in a telephone interview. "So we're rounding up the (legal) troops, ready to go again. We'll be there, fighting," said Nishnic, who argues Demjanjuk is innocent of the charges against him.
"I don't think the Germans have a case," Nishnic said, adding Demjanjuk, who will be 89 in April, was in poor health. Continued...
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