(JTA) — Attorneys for convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk have asked a U.S. appeals court to restore his citizenship posthumously.
The attorneys in their request of April 12 asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to reinstate Demjanjuk’s citizenship or to order a hearing on the question, The Associated Press reported over the weekend. They argued that U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland made a mistake by not reopening the case when Demjanjuk requested it last year.
In asking Polster to reopen the case, Demjanjuk’s attorneys charged that the government withheld documents that could have helped the former Cleveland-area autoworker’s case.
Government prosecutors have until next month to file a response to the lawsuit, according to the AP.
Demjanjuk died last month at the age of 91 in an old-age home in southern Germany, where he was free while he appealed his conviction last year by a Munich court for his role in the murder of 27,900 people at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. He reportedly was buried in secret in an undisclosed location in the United States on March 31.
Born and raised in Ukraine, Demjanjuk immigrated to the United States following World War II. In 1986 he was sent to Israel to face trial on charges of being the notorious Treblinka guard "Ivan the Terrible." An Israeli court sentenced Demjanjuk to death, but the Israeli Supreme Court ordered him released due to reasonable doubt while noting that substantial evidence emerged during the trial identifying him as a guard at Sobibor.
Demjanjuk returned to suburban Cleveland in 1993 and resisted multiple attempts to strip him of his citizenship and deport him again. But he lost that battle in 2009, and U.S. authorities deported him to Germany. Last May he was convicted for his crimes in Sobibor, and he was sentenced to five years in prison.