MUNICH – John Demjanjuk's lawyer assailed Germany's prosecution of the 91-year-old on Tuesday, arguing that investigators have failed to offer concrete evidence of his involvement in Nazi war crimes and have been inconsistent in their efforts to pursue suspects.
Attorney Ulrich Busch argued that, whether or not he is convicted, the retired Ohio auto worker is already "a victim of German justice." He complained as he started his closing arguments that the court hearing the case has failed to consider potentially important documents and testimony.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk went on trial in November 2009, months after he was deported from the United States.
Demjanjuk is charged with 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for allegedly serving as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. He denies the charges.
Prosecutors have called for a conviction and six-year prison sentence. They argue that he should be found guilty because, as a guard, he was part of the Nazis' machinery of death.
However, Busch said that wasn't enough for a conviction and pointed to the lack of specific evidence that he was involved in any crime.
"There is no way that anyone can say that John Demjanjuk could influence the number of victims in Sobibor," Busch told the Munich state court. The number of counts is based on records of how many people were transported to Sobibor and killed during the time Demjanjuk allegedly worked there.
The prosecution argues that after Demjanjuk, a Soviet Red Army soldier, was captured by the Germans in 1942, he agreed to serve under the SS as a guard.
Demjanjuk denies ever serving as a guard. He says he spent most of the rest of the war after his capture in Nazi camps for prisoners of war before joining the so-called Vlasov Army of anti-communist Soviet POWs and others, formed to fight against the encroaching Soviets in the war's final months.
Busch said West German officials argued in the 1980s that their country didn't have the right to pursue crimes carried out abroad by foreigners; and that, for decades, they considered non-Germans who — as Demjanjuk is accused of doing — trained at the Trawniki SS camp too insignificant to prosecute.
Demjanjuk deserves an unspecified quantity of compensation from Germany for the time has spent in custody both there and earlier in Israel, Busch said, arguing that Germany is ultimately responsible for his client's troubles over the decades.
In Israel, Demjanjuk was convicted in 1988 of being the notorious guard "Ivan the Terrible" at another death camp, Treblinka. That conviction was overturned by Israel's high court five years later as a case of mistaken identity.
"Anyone who is innocent and sits for five years in a death-row cell has certainly atoned for everything he did in his life to that point," Busch said.
Demjanjuk, as he has for much of his trial, lay in a bed wearing sunglasses during the proceedings.
The trial resumes Wednesday, with Busch set to continue his closing arguments.