NEW YORK (Aug. 31)
The chances that accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk would return to this country increased this week when a federal appeals court refused to reconsider an order saying that he must be allowed to return to the United States.
Israel’s Supreme Court, meanwhile, was expected to decide Thursday whether to release Demjanjuk or hold him for further prosecution. He is currently being held in Ayalon Prison outside Tel Aviv.
On Tuesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati rejected without comment a Justice Department request for a hearing on the matter by the full panel of 14 judges.
The court also rejected a motion for a stay of the order, which was issued Aug. 6 by a three-judge panel of the court.
Government sources were not surprised by the federal appeals court decision.
The Justice Department opposes Demjanjuk’s return on the grounds that he lied about his wartime activities when he entered the United States after the war and again when he later applied for U.S. citizenship.
It was on those grounds that the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations had Demjanjuk denaturalized and later extradited to Israel to stand trial for war crimes.
But it remains to be seen if the department will now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to bar Demjanjuk, who was acquitted July 30 by the Israeli Supreme Court of war crimes committed at the Treblinka death camp as the so-called “Ivan the Terrible.”
ORAL ARGUMENTS STILL TO BE HEARD
The Israeli high court, in its decision, said it found compelling evidence that the 73-year-old former Cleveland autoworker, who was extradited to Israel in 1986, was an SS guard at the Sobibor death camp and the Flossenburg and Regensburg concentration camps.
The court has been considering petitions by several Holocaust survivors and their supporters to prosecute Demjanjuk on charges stemming from those alleged activities.
Oral arguments in a related matter were still scheduled to be heard by the original three-judge Cincinnati court on Friday.
The matter to be heard will be the June 30 ruling by Judge Thomas Wiseman Jr., who was designated as special master to look into reports that the Justice Department had withheld exculpatory evidence in the original 1986 extradition case against Demjanjuk.
Wiseman found that Justice Department lawyers did not deliberately withhold evidence and that the extradition case should be considered closed.
When this oral argument was scheduled, the Israeli Supreme Court had not made its decision acquitting Demjanjuk and the Cincinnati court had not ordered that Demjanjuk be allowed back into this country.
Debra Nagle, public information officer for the appeals court, said, “Since the Israeli Supreme Court has made its decision, and this court has ruled that Demjanjuk should be allowed back into the country, I don’t know what will be discussed” on Friday.