CLEVELAND – On Monday, A U.S. immigration judge in Virginia revoked John Demjanjuk's stay of deportation to Germany. Demjanjuk plans to appeal the decision, which would clear the way for him to be sent to Germany to face charges of being a Nazi death camp guard.
The 89-year-old suburban Cleveland man, a retired autoworker, is accused in a German arrest warrant of 29,000 counts of acting as an accessory to murder at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943. He has denied involvement in any deaths.
Authorities in Germany had initially expected him to arrive in that country on Monday. But Demjanjuk won a reprieve Friday after arguing that his case should be reopened and that being forced to go to Germany would amount to torture because of his poor health.
Judge Wayne R. Iskra, who granted the initial stay, reversed the decision Monday without a hearing. He agreed with the U.S. Justice Department's response that the matter should be handled by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which has previously upheld Demjanjuk's removal.
His son, John Demjanjuk Jr., says an appeal will be filed in Falls Church, Va., at the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Demjanjuk, a native Ukrainian, came to the United States after World War II as a refugee. He is seeking to remain in the U.S. because of poor health and says being forced to travel to Germany would amount to torture.
"The more judges that see our case, the better our chances at stopping this inhumane and reckless action," Demjanjuk Jr. said.
The German Justice Ministry said it was following the U.S. court action closely.
"We have, though, no influence on the process there. It's something within the American justice system," said Justice Ministry spokesman Ulrich Staudigl.
In Germany, Demjanjuk would have a chance to respond to the allegations before a judge in Munich. German prosecutors are making their case based largely on evidence used in the United States to strip Demjanjuk of his citizenship in 2002.
In 2005, an immigration judge ordered he can be deported to Germany, Poland or his native Ukraine.
In a three-page signed statement last week, Demjanjuk asked for asylum in the U.S. and said deporting him "will expose me to severe physical and mental pain that clearly amount to torture under any reasonable definition of the term."
In the statement, Demjanjuk said he is physically weak and has severe spinal, hip and leg pain. He said he suffers from a bone marrow disorder, kidney disease, anemia, kidney stones, arthritis, gout and spinal deterioration.
His attorney in Washington, John Broadley, said a government physician examined Demjanjuk on Thursday to determine his ability to travel and there was "dramatic evidence" of his back pain. Broadley submitted a portion of the exam videotape to the government on Friday as part of his argument against deportation.
But the Justice Department's response, signed by Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations, argued that Demjanjuk's "medical capacity to stand trial abroad is, or course, irrelevant in a removal proceeding."
Demjanjuk first gained U.S. citizenship in 1958. But his citizenship was revoked in 1981 when the Justice Department alleged he had served the Nazis as the notorious Nazi guard "Ivan the Terrible" in Poland at the Treblinka death camp.
He was extradited to Israel in 1986, and two years later he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He appealed, and Israel's Supreme Court in 1993 ruled that Demjanjuk was not "Ivan the Terrible" and allowed him to return to the United States.
His U.S. citizenship was restored in 1998.
But the Justice Department went after his citizenship again, making a case that he had served at Sobibor and other death or forced labor camps.