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Verdict in War-crimes Trial of Demjanjuk Expected Monday

April 18, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Accused war criminal John Demjanjuk is about to face his moment of truth.

A three-judge panel is scheduled to announce in Jerusalem district court Monday whether the Ukrainian-born retired automobile worker is, on the basis of the evidence presented, the Treblinka death camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible,” who operated the gas chambers where some 800,000 Jews perished.

If his identity is found to have been established beyond reasonable doubt, Demjanjuk could face the death penalty. If not, he will be free to join his wife, Vera, and their three children, who have attended the year-long trial.

Israeli law provides the death penalty for only two specific crimes. The Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Law of 1950 calls for capital punishment for the perpetrators of crimes against the Jewish people, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Only one person has been executed under the law, Adolf Eichmann, who was hanged here in 1962.

The death penalty, though provided under the “Law Against Terrorism,” has never been invoked.

If the 67-year-old Demjanjuk is found to be “Ivan the Terrible,” he will not be sentenced immediately. The prosecution and defense will be allowed time to argue the penalty. Once sentence is passed, the defense will have 45 days to appeal. In the case of a death sentence, appeal is mandatory and the fate of the accused will be in the hands of Israel’s Supreme Court.

Demjanjuk, who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, before he was stripped of his American citizenship in 1985, is the first accused war criminal extradited to Israel for trial. The court held 106 sessions on the case, during which the prosecution presented 21 witnesses and the defense introduced 31.

Although Demjanjuk was identified in court by Treblinka survivors, the case may hinge on the authenticity of a key document obtained from the Soviet Union–an SS identification card issued to captured Red Army soldiers who volunteered for training as death camp guards. Defense experts insisted a card bearing Demjanjuk’s photograph was a forgery.

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