JERUSALEM (Sep. 28)
Suspected Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk will be officially charged with four counts of war crimes in Jerusalem District Court Monday. A 25-page charge sheet, drafted by State Attorney Yona Blattman and her associates, will be presented along with a request that Demjanjuk be held in prison pending trial which is expected to start next January and last several months.
The case against the Ukrainian-born former U.S. citizen from Cleveland, Ohio, will hinge on positive identification of him as the Treblinka death camp guard, known to inmates as “Ivan the Terrible” because of his brutality. Some 900,000 Jews died in the Treblinka gas chambers during World War II. The guard known as “Ivan” is said to have operated the crematoria.
Demjanjuk is the first Nazi war crimes suspect ever extradited to Israel for trial. He was brought to Israel last February and confined in isolation at a maximum security prison near Ramle.
LIST OF CHARGES
On Monday he will be charged in court with crimes against the Jewish people; crimes against humanity; crimes against persecuted people; and war crimes. Each offense carries the death penalty and is unique inasmuch as Israel’s statutes do not provide capital punishment. The only war criminal executed by Israel was Adolf Eichmann who was hanged 25 years ago.
The prosecution is intent on establishing an airtight case against the 66-year-old retired automobile plant worker who was stripped of his U.S. citizenship several years ago. During the evidence-gathering process, Demjanjuk was periodically remanded and re-remanded in custody. His detention was extended last month until October I.
The State reportedly plans to call some 50 witnesses, 15 of them Treblinka survivors living in Israel or overseas. It will take testimony abroad from an 80-year-old former SS guard who served at Treblinka. Because of the importance of positive identification, witnesses asked to identify the prisoner will be limited to persons who knew “Ivan the Terrible” for at least eight months.
The charge sheet lacks some vital evidence. Still missing from the file is a certificate reportedly issued to Demjanjuk at an SS training camp. It is believed to be in the possession of the Soviet authorities. They have not yet responded to an Israeli request for a copy of the document.
Demjanjuk will be tried by a panel of one Supreme Court justice and two district court justices. Their names will be announced Monday after the charge sheet is filed.