JERUSALEM (Sep. 2)
Suspected Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk may have won the latest round in the American court system, but he still has more legal hurdles to clear in Israel.
On Thursday, Israeli Supreme Court Justice Theodore Orr ordered a further delay in Demjanjuk’s deportation until the court could hear additional petitions calling for his trial here on new war crimes charges.
This latest development in the Demjanjuk legal saga follows an Aug. 20 ruling in which the high court gave petitioners 15 days to prepare arguments for a hearing before an expanded judicial bench.
The expanded panel would determine whether the retired Cleveland autoworker should be tried for crimes at several concentration camps.
On July 29, the Israeli Supreme Court acquitted Demjanjuk of being the so-called “Ivan the Terrible,” the bestial gas chamber operator at the Treblinka death camp.
But at the same time, the court found there was compelling evidence that Demjanjuk had served as an SS guard at the Sobibor death camp and the Flossenburg and Regensburg concentration camps.
It was on these grounds that the petitioners, including Holocaust survivors and the World Jewish Congress, called for a new trial. They argued that Israel has an obligation to see the case through to completion.
NO DATE SET FOR HEARING
Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar assigned the petitions for a new trial to Orr, one of the few justices who has not yet been involved in the Demjanjuk case.
Orr did not set a date for a hearing on the petitions.
In the interim, Demjanjuk was to remain in Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv, where he has been held since he was extradited to Israel in 1986.
Edward Nishnic, Demjanjuk’s son-in-law, was quoted as saying that the high court instructed Demjanjuk’s lawyer he had until Sunday to respond to the petitions calling for a retrial.
On Wednesday, a day before Justice Orr postponed Demjanjuk’s deportation, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno announced in Washington that the Justice Department would not seek a Supreme Court ruling barring Demjanjuk’s return to the United States.
The move marked a reversal of weeks of Justice Department bids to convince the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to reverse an Aug. 3 ruling ordering the government to allow Demjanjuk to re-enter the country.
Reno’s decision paves the way for at least a temporary return by Demjanjuk to the United States, where he could face deportation proceedings once again.
But Holocaust survivors and their supporters here are hoping that Israel’s Supreme Court will decide to keep him here so that he can be further prosecuted.