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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 00:54 GMT 01:54 UK
Alleged Nazi on trial again
John Demjanjuk
The courts are attempting to strip Mr Demjanjuk of his US citizenship for the second time
John Demjanjuk, the 81-year old Ukrainian immigrant said by the US government to have served as a Nazi death camp guard in the Second World War, has been put on trial for the second time in 20 years.

Mr Demjanjuk did not appear in a US District Court in Cleveland, Ohio to face government charges that he lied about his wartime past and should be stripped of his US citizenship.


Without the testimony of any live witness who saw John Demjanjuk commit any of the charged acts ... this is a trial by documen

Michael Tigar
Defence attorney
Justice Department attorney Edward A Stutman said evidence would focus on seven documents that include references to a man with the same birth date, birth place and physical description, including a scar matching Mr Demjanjuk's.

Lead defence attorney Michael Tigar said it is a case of mistaken identity, that the height and dental work listed on the government's documents do not match Mr Demjanjuk.

"The government cannot meet its burden of proof," Mr Tigar said.

Disputed ID card

Mr Demjanjuk stands accused of working as a guard in three German concentration camps including Sobibor, a notorious extermination camp where 250,000 mostly Polish Jews were killed.

Central to the case is a disputed identification card bearing what appears to be a young Demjanjuk's picture issued to him at the SS-run Trawniki training camp.

Mr Tigar alleged that the photograph had been replaced and some of the inks used were of Soviet origin and not German.

"Without the testimony of any live witness who saw John Demjanjuk commit any of the charged acts ... this is a trial by document," Mr Tigar said.

No signature

John Demjanjuk Jr
Demjanjuk's son was in court

He said no wartime signature by Mr Demjanjuk exists to support the government's view, nor is there fingerprint or DNA evidence.

"We will show the court a scenario that explains how the government, once again, has got it wrong," Mr Tigar said.

Mr Tigar did not specify whether Mr Demjanjuk would attend any of the trial, which is expected to last three weeks.

War crimes trial

Mr Demjanjuk, who gained entry into the United States in 1951 claiming he had spent much of the war as a German prisoner captured in the Crimea from the Soviet army, was first charged with war crimes in 1977.

He was stripped of his US citizenship in 1981 in what became an embarrassing case for the Justice Department.

Apparently swayed by the testament of survivors of the Treblinka extermination camp, prosecutors alleged that Mr Demjanjuk - whose given name was Ivan - was the brutal death camp guard nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible."

Denials

Extradited and put on trial in Israel, Mr Demjanjuk was sentenced to death in 1988 for being Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, despite his denials that he was never there.

But evidence mostly from inside the Soviet Union, some of which had been available to US prosecutors, convinced the Israeli Supreme Court that another Ukrainian was in fact responsible.

The Israeli court freed Mr Demjanjuk in 1993 and he returned to the United States where judges reprimanded the Justice Department and ultimately restored his citizenship.

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20 May 99 | Americas
Demjanjuk's citizenship trial
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