CLEVELAND – A lawyer for the Cleveland area man accused of being a Nazi death camp guard says the elderly suspect needs chemotherapy and is unfit for trial.
John Demjanjuk was released from federal custody late Tuesday, just hours after immigration officers took him from his Ohio home in a wheelchair. He'd been scheduled for deportation to Germany to face a possible war crimes trial.
An appeals court is giving the 89-year-old another chance to argue that deportation would amount to torture, due to medical conditions that include kidney disease. His German attorney also says Demjanjuk has a kidney tumor.
Earlier Tuesday, U.S. immigration agents arrived at Demjanjuk's home to deport him to Germany, where an arrest warrant alleges he was a Nazi death camp guard, his son said.
His son, John Demjanjuk Jr., filed motions earlier Tuesday asking the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of deportation.
He was in contact with people at his father's home.
"He can't stand up and walk out of the house," Demjanjuk Jr. said. "We weren't anticipating anything like this. I was told that a family member could accompany him. We also were told that we would have 3-5 days notice before anything happened."
Around 1 p.m., five men in two unmarked cars arrived at Demjanjuk's home and at least three were seen inside the home.
A wheelchair-accessible van arrived after one man was heard saying on a cell phone, "John can't get out of bed." Two priests who came to the home later went inside and left after a short time.
A short while later, video footage showed Demjanjuk being carried out of his house in a wheelchair and placed into the waiting van as family members looked on.
German prosecutors claim Demjanjuk was an accessory to some 29,000 deaths during World War II at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Once in Germany, he could be formally charged in court.
Demjanjuk, a native Ukrainian, has denied being a Nazi guard, long claiming he was a prisoner of war of the Germans. He came to the United States after the war as a refugee.
Demjanjuk had been tried in Israel after accusations surfaced that he was the notorious Nazi guard "Ivan the Terrible" in Poland at the Treblinka death camp.
He was found guilty in 1988 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, a conviction later overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.
A U.S. judge revoked his citizenship in 2002, based on Justice Department evidence showing he concealed his service at Sobibor and other Nazi-run death and forced labor camps.
An immigration judge ruled in 2005 he could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine.
Guenther Maull, a Munich-based lawyer for Demjanjuk said earlier Tuesday that his client could arrive in Germany on Wednesday.
The Immigration Appeals board in Falls Church, Va., had denied a motion for an emergency stay on Friday.
The U.S. Justice Department has opposed his previous appeals.