CLEVELAND – A U.S. immigration appeals board on Thursday denied a request to reopen the deportation case of John Demjanjuk, who is wanted in Germany to face accusations that he served as a Nazi death camp guard.
The ruling by the immigration board in Virginia means Demjanjuk's fate now lies with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appellate court issued a deportation stay Tuesday, which remained in effect Thursday, saying it needed more time to consider a separate motion to reopen the case.
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The appeals court halted deportation shortly after immigration officers carried the 89-year-old from his suburban Cleveland home in a wheelchair to start him on his journey to Germany. He returned home a few hours later.
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney was aware of the immigration board's ruling but said the agency would not comment because of the matter still pending before the appeals court.
"We'll wait to see what the 6th Circuit says," she said.
An arrest warrant in Germany claims Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-YAHN'-yuk) 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.
Family and lawyers representing the retired autoworker have said flying him to Germany would amount to torture and that he might not even survive the flight.
A Division of Immigration Health Services doctor who recently examined Demjanjuk determined he is "medically stable" to travel from the United States to Germany, but the family and Demjanjuk's lawyer on Wednesday questioned whether all information has been released about the flight being potentially lethal.
John Demjanjuk Jr. said his father is so frail that even if given additional oxygen aboard an aircraft he might not be able to breathe.