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1988: 'Ivan the Terrible' guilty of war crimes

A retired US car worker has been found guilty of Nazi war crimes.

Ukraine-born John Demjanjuk, 68, could now be given the death penalty when sentence is passed next week.

Three Israeli judges ruled that Demjanjuk was the guard known as "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp in Poland during World War II.

Presiding judge Dov Levine said: "We have concluded unequivocally, without the slightest doubt, that Ivan John Demjanjuk is the Ivan who operated the gas chambers at Treblinka ."

Demjanjuk was only the second person to face a war crimes trial in Israel - the first - in 1961 - was Hitler's henchman, Adolf Eichmann.

Eichmann was sentenced to death and hanged.

Demjanjuk was first charged with war crimes in 1977 and lost his US citizenship in 1981, after a court ruled that he had lied about his wartime past.


"I am an innocent man "

John Demjanjuk

He was extradited to Israel to stand trial in February 1986.

During the trial his attorneys argued that Demjanjuk was the victim of mistaken identity.

They challenged the accuracy of the memories of five Treblinka survivors who identified Demjanjuk as Ivan during the trial.

However, an ID card showing John Demjanjuk had been registered at a Nazi training centre for camp guards helped sway the judges in the prosecution's favour.

Demjanjuk's lack of a convincing alibi regarding his whereabouts during the war also did not help his cause.

But even after the guilty verdict Demjanjuk insisted he was not Ivan.

"I am an innocent man. I'll appeal, and I'm sure that I will win," Demjanjuk said.

Demjanjuk's son, also John, condemned the proceedings as "nothing more or less than a Soviet show trial".

In Context
John Demjanjuk was sentenced to death but appealed.

His conviction was quashed in 1993 by the Israeli Supreme Court, after evidence suggested that another Ukrainian was Ivan the Terrible.

John Demjanjuk returned to the United States, where, in 1998, his citizenship was restored.

In 2000 he began a civil action for damages of $5m from the US government.

In February 2002 John Demjanjuk's US citizenship was once again revoked.

A judge ruled that even if Demjanjuk were not Ivan the Terrible, there was enough evidence to prove he had been a death camp guard.

Demjanjuk appealed again but in 2004 a US judge upheld the previous decision to revoke his citizenship.

In 2005 a judge ruled in favour of allowing his deportation to Ukraine. Demjanjuk lost an appeal agains this ruling in December 2006.


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