SYDNEY, Australia (Mar. 22)
An eyewitness testified last week in an Australian courtroom that he personally saw suspected war criminal Ivan Polyukhovich kill a Jew in the Ukrainian village of Serniki.
In addition, several witnesses from the United States, Canada and Israel testified in the Adelaide court that Polyukhovich was personally involved in the massacre of about 850 Jews by Nazis in the Ukraine in 1942.
The Ukrainian-born Polyukhovich, a longtime resident of Adelaide, is the first person indicted under a 1988 law that allows Australian courts to try war crimes suspects living in Australia.
As the law is written, the prosecution must prove not only that the accused committed murder but that he did so as part of a general policy of genocide. The defense, while not contesting the evidence so far, insists the required standard of proof has not been met.
The past two weeks were devoted to testimony from overseas witnesses, who gave chilling eyewitness accounts of Nazi atrocities in Serniki. Their testimony is expected to continue for another two months.
Last Friday, Nathan Boberov, a 60-year-old witness from Israel, identified Polyukhovich as the man he saw murder a Jew, Alter Botovnik, and who almost murdered Boberov.
The accused, a forest warden known to the Jews of Serniki as “Ivanechko,” was identified by other witnesses as a participant in genocide, though they did not accuse him directly of murder.
But Boberov, speaking through an interpreter, did. He said that after witnessing Botovnik’s murder, he saw the accused walk with a rifle toward a group of nine Jews, “ready to shoot.”
Boberov said Polyukhovich signaled him to join the group, which he did, although he escaped later. He testified that Polyukhovich told him “someone else will kill you.”
Polyukhovich was formally charged in January 1990, but his trial was delayed because the war crimes law was being challenged before Australia’s Supreme Court.
In July 1990, the accused, then about 75, was found in an Adelaide street with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was hospitalized.
His trial finally began on Oct. 28, 1990, and the first witnesses testified on Nov. 11.