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Appeals court stops Demjanjuk extradition

April 14, 2009 at 8:36 PM   |   Comments

CLEVELAND, April 14 (UPI) -- Suspected war criminal John Demjanjuk was taken from his Cleveland-area home Tuesday but released a few hours later after a court blocked his deportation.

Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., helped secure his father's release by driving across Ohio to file papers with the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. The court granted a stay, allowing the 89-year-old retired auto worker to remain in the United States at least temporarily.

U.S. immigration agents carried Demjanjuk from his house in Seven Hills in a wheel chair early Tuesday afternoon. He was scheduled to be flown to Munich overnight to face charges of being an accessory in the deaths of 29,000 Jews in the Sobibor concentration camp.

Demjanjuk, born in Ukraine, denies having been a concentration camp guard during World War II, saying he was simply a prisoner of war captured while serving in the Russian Army. His family argues that his health is so bad that deportation at this point constitutes torture.

Demjanjuk has been battling allegations of war crimes since 1977, 25 years after he moved to the United States. He was convicted in 1986 in Israel of being "Ivan the Terrible," a notorious guard at Treblinka, and sentenced to death, but the country's high court reversed that conviction.

U.S. investigators charge that Demjanjuk, after becoming a POW, changed sides and served as a guard at several camps.

"If we want to prevent future genocides, then we must prosecute those who commit the crime until their last dying day," said Jonathan Drimmer, a former federal prosecutor who spent years pursuing Demjanjuk.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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