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2 May, 2009 01:26

Former Nazi guard, 89, faces mass murder trial

Alleged Nazi war criminal Ivan Demjanjuk is to be deported to Germany from the US to face 29,000 counts of accessory to murder. The 89-year-old retired autoworker says it’s a case of mistaken identity.

Demjanjuk will be tried for assisting in the killing of Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland during World War Two.

The U.S. Court of Appeal dismissed the 89-year-old’s claims that moving him to Germany would amount to torture because of his poor health.

"Based on the medical information before the court … the court cannot find that the petitioner's removal to Germany is likely to cause irreparable harm sufficient to warrant a stay of removal," the court announced.

Prosecutors said that Demjanjuk’s torture arguments sound ridiculous as there are medical assessments and videos showing him to be in good health and able to walk without help.

Demjanjuk’s family is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. It has also filed a lawsuit in Germany to prevent his extradition.

"Given the history of this case and no evidence of his personal involvement in even one assault, let alone a murder, this is inhuman, even if a court says it is lawful," Demjanjuk’s son John Demjanjuk was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

Demjanjuk was a Soviet Red Army soldier when he was captured by the Nazis in 1942.

After being trained by the Germans at Treblinka, he served two years in the camps of Sobibor and Majdanek in Nazi-occupied Poland and then in Flossenburg in Bavaria, Germany.

He emigrated to the USA in 1952 with his family and settled in Ohio, changing his name from Ivan to John.

Demjanjuk was deported to Israel from the US and sentenced to death in 1988, accused of being a sadistic Nazi guard nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible". But Israel's highest court later ruled that he was not the man in question.

After spending years in an Israeli prison, he returned to his home near Cleveland in 1993 and his citizenship was restored in 1998.

U.S. Justice Department Nazi hunters reopened the case when new evidence came to light after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And a U.S. court convicted him in 2002 of working at three other camps.

Demjanjuk was stripped of his citizenship a second time. Then German prosecutors began efforts to put him on trial.

Despite all the accusations, Demjanjuk maintains that he was forced to work in the camps. He says holocaust survivors have mistaken him for other, cruel camp guards.