Menu JTA Search

Congressman, Jewish Groups Support Appeal to High Court over Demjanjuk

A New York congressman and four Jewish organizations have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting an appeal of a lower court’s ruling in the case of accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk.

These friend-of-the-court briefs support the May 24 petition by the Justice Department to overturn an appeals court decision that charged prosecutors with fraud for withholding potentially exculpatory evidence in the Demjanjuk case.

In that petition, lawyers for the department’s Office of Special Investigations argued that the government had acted in good faith at Demjanjuk’s 1985 deportation trial before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

If the fraud charges are overturned by the Supreme court, the government may stand a better chance of deporting the retired Cleveland autoworker a second time.

Demjanjuk was returned to the United States last year after the Israeli Supreme Court overturned his conviction in that country for crimes against humanity. He had been sentenced to hang.

The Israeli high court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Demjanjuk was the notorious “Ivan the Terrible” who committed war crimes at the Treblinka concentration camp.

Demjanjuk had been extradited to Israel following the Cincinnati court’s original deportation order in 1986.

Since returning to this country over the objections of OSI, he has been living at his home in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills, where a Jewish group led by activist Rabbi Avi Weiss has been staging periodic demonstrations.

One of the recent friend-of-the-court briefs was filed June 21 by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the World Jewish Congress and Holocaust Survivors in Pursuit of Justice. It charged that the three-judge panel of the Cincinnati court sought to perpetuate a “vicious stereotype” of Jews.

The appeals panel had written in its ruling that it was “obvious from the record that the prevailing mind set at OSI was that the office must try to please and maintain very close relationships with various interest groups because their continued existence depended on it.”

The WJC said in a statement, “All of the interested parties named by the court were Jewish individuals and organizations.”

The other brief, filed June 23 by the American Section of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and joined by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, contends that the 6th Circuit’s “standard unjustifiably casts doubt on the Office of Special Investigations.”

It states, “If this court were to leave the panel’s decision unreviewed, the American public, the international community, and the survivors of the Holocaust — as well as the Department of Justice attorneys who have been branded as perpetrators of ‘prosecutorial misconduct’ — would effectively be deprived of any appellate review whatsoever of the panel’s determination.”

NEXT STORY