Page last updated at 17:35 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 18:35 UK

Demjanjuk trial set for November

John Demjanjuk (2005)
Mr Demjanjuk says he was a prisoner of war of the Nazis during World War II

The trial of alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk on 27,900 counts of accessory to murder during World War II will start in Germany next month.

The Munich state court has set aside 35 trial days for the process, beginning on 30 November and ending in May 2010.

The 89-year-old retired car worker, who was deported from the US in May, could face 15 years in prison if convicted.

Mr Demjanjuk has denied accusations that he was a guard at the Sobibor death camp and helped murder Jews.

He says he was captured by Germans in his native Ukraine while fighting for the Red Army and kept as a prisoner of war.

Identity card

Last week, the court in Munich cleared the way for Mr Demjanjuk's trial by accepting the state prosecutors' indictment.

In a statement, it said the proceedings would probably start at the beginning of November, but added that no date had yet been set.

1952: Gains entry into the US, claiming he spent most of the war as a German prisoner
1977: First charged with war crimes, accused of being "Ivan the Terrible"
1981: Stripped of US citizenship
1986: Extradited to Israel
1993: Israeli Supreme Court overturns conviction, ruling that he is not Ivan the Terrible
2002: Loses US citizenship after a judge said there was proof he worked at Nazi camps
2005: A judge rules in favour of deportation to his native Ukraine
2009: Germany issues an arrest warrant for him; deported by US; formally charged with 27,900 counts of accessory to murder

But on Tuesday, court officials and Mr Demjanjuk's lawyers said the start of the trial had now been scheduled for the end of the month, and that the 35 trial days set aside would probably take until early May 2010 to complete.

A key witness, Thomas Blatt, one of the few survivors of Sobibor, is expected to testify between 19 and 21 January.

"Mr Blatt is happy that it will finally get underway, and hopes for a fair and speedy trial," his lawyer, Stefan Schuenemann said.

Mr Demjanjuk was charged on 13 July, 10 days after medical experts at Munich's Stadelheim prison declared that he was fit to stand trial, provided that his questioning in court was limited to two 90-minute sessions per day.

His family have said he is too frail to stand trial because he suffers from kidney disease, cancer and arthritis.

Mr Demjanjuk arrived in the US in 1952 as a refugee, settling in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked in the car industry.

In 1988 he was sentenced to death in Israel for crimes against humanity after Holocaust survivors identified him as the notorious "Ivan the Terrible", a guard at the Treblinka death camp.

But Israel's highest court later overturned his sentence, after documents from the former Soviet Union indicated that "Ivan the Terrible" had probably been a different man.

Mr Demjanjuk returned to the US, but in 2002 had his US citizenship stripped because of his failure to disclose his work at Nazi camps when he first arrived as a refugee.

In 2005, a US immigration judge ruled that he could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine.

And in March 2009, prosecutors in Munich issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of being an accessory in the deaths of Jews.

They said they had documents proving his Nazi background, including an SS identity card which showed he had been a guard at Sobibor between March and September 1943, and many witness testimonies.

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