A U.S. immigration appeals board on Thursday denied a request to reopen the deportation case of Nazi war crimes suspect John Demjanjuk.
However, a federal appeals court’s stay on Demjanjuk’s deportation remains in effect. The 89-year-old is facing charges in Germany for his alleged involvement in killings at Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in Poland, during World War II. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered its stay on Tuesday, less than two hours after federal immigration officials took Demjanjuk, 89, into custody at his home near Cleveland, Ohio. “Upon due consideration of the motion for a stay and the opposition by the Attorney General, we conclude that a stay of removal is warranted,” the circuit court wrote. The Justice Department said it would wait to see what the circuit court would decide.
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Last month, German authorities issued an arrest warrant for Demjanjuk, accusing him of being an accessory to 29,000 murders while he served as a guard at Sobibor from March 1943 to September 1943. His attorney, John Broadley, has said that Demjanjuk’s health problems are so significant that deporting the retired autoworker would constitute torture. Broadley said Demjanjuk suffers from pre-leukemia, kidney problems, spinal problems and “a couple of types of gout.” “At this point in his life, at 89 and [with] the ailments he has, he has difficulty caring for himself, compared to caring about the legal things that are going on in the United States and in Germany,” his son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said on Wednesday. He said his father was back at home after the appeal court’s stay. The younger Demjanjuk said Germany’s accusations do not allege that his father hurt or killed anyone, “let alone 29,000.” “The accusations from Germany today are that he was an accessory,” he said. “The German prosecutor to this moment has not said that they have any evidence or will even allege that he personally hurt one person, let alone 29,000. They’re basically saying he was at the place where people were killed,” he said. He noted that his father has been fighting charges of Nazi war crimes for more than three decades. The case dates back to the late 1970s, when the Justice Department accused Demjanjuk of being a Nazi guard known as “Ivan the Terrible.” Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship was revoked in 1981, and he was extradited to Israel in 1986. He was convicted in an Israeli court in 1988 and sentenced to death, but that conviction was overturned in 1993 amid evidence that someone else was Ivan the Terrible. A federal court restored Demjanjuk’s citizenship, ruling that the government had withheld evidence supporting his case. But his citizenship was again revoked in 2002 after a federal judge ruled that he entered the United States illegally in 1952 by hiding his past as a Nazi guard. Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian, denies any role in the Holocaust. He says he saw action in the Soviet army and later was a prisoner of war held by the Germans. “Germany nearly killed my father. He was a Soviet soldier; he wasn’t a German,” his son said. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said 250,000 Jews were killed at Sobibor, and none of the guards who worked there was blameless. “You were there for one job: kill the Jews,” he said. “And that’s what they did full-time.” He called the evidence against Demjanjuk “overwhelming.”