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Demjanjuk Lawyer Denounces Trial
 
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30-Nov-2009  
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John Demjanjuk was brought into the afternoon session of his trial on a stretcher
 
 
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A lawyer for John Demjanjuk, accused of helping to murder 27,900 Jews at a Nazi death camp, has accused German prosecutors of double standards.

Mr Demjanjuk, 89, denies he was a guard at Sobibor camp, in wartime Poland.

As the case began in Munich, his legal team said in previous cases Germans assigned to the camp had been cleared.

The Ukraine-born accused, who was extradited to Germany from the US in May, was twice carried into court, first in a wheelchair then a stretcher.

Doctors have said Mr Demjanjuk is in poor health, and asked that hearings be limited to two 90-minute sessions a day.

Over 60 years after the end of World War II, this may be Germany's last big war crimes trial.

But the BBC's Oana Lungescu in Munich says that, as the first to focus on a low-ranking foreigner rather than a senior Nazi commander, it breaks new legal ground.

Defence lawyer Ulrich Busch said it should never have gone to trial.

"How can you say that those who gave the orders were innocent... and the one who received the orders is guilty?" Mr Busch told the court.

"There is a moral and legal double standard being applied today."

Mr Busch has said even if it could be proved his client - who was captured by the Nazis while fighting in the Soviet army - was in Sobibor, he would have been there under duress.

A retired Ohio car-worker, Mr Demjanjuk stands accused of having helped the Nazi death factory to function.

Prosecutors say he was a guard who pushed thousands of Jews to their deaths in the gas chambers at Sobibor.

Lawyers for Mr Demjanjuk - who denies being at the death camp - say he will not speak at all during the case.

The trial is expected to last until May and, if found guilty, Mr Demjanjuk could be sentenced to 15 years in jail.

If Mr Demjanjuk is acquitted it is not clear where he will go as he has been stripped of his US citizenship.

A leading French Nazi-hunter voiced disappointment over the case as he said the accused would only have been a minor figure.

Serge Klarsfeld told AFP news agency on Monday: "It's a bit disappointing - a bedridden non-German, occupying a subordinate position and who would have died of hunger in a prison camp" if he had refused to serve as a guard.

Mr Demjanjuk arrived on Monday in an ambulance at the courtroom, which was crowded with people, including journalists and relatives of Holocaust survivors.

A pale Mr Demjanjuk, his eyes closed for much of the time, was taken into court in a wheelchair.

A doctor who examined Mr Demjanjuk two hours before proceedings began said his vital signs were stable.

After the first session, the accused was returned to court lying on a stretcher and covered in blankets.

Doctors ordered the second session to be cut short after examining Mr Demjanjuk, who was complaining of pain.

But Efraim Zuroff, director of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center, said: "Demjanjuk put on a great act. He should have gone to Hollywood, not Sobibor."

Prosecutors say statements from a now-dead Ukrainian place Mr Demjanjuk at Sobibor.

The statements - which the defence says are inconsistent - say he "participated in the mass killing of Jews".

There are no living witnesses in this case, but over 30 people listed as joint plaintiffs are expected to testify about what happened at Sobibor, described by investigators as hell on earth.

Two are camp survivors, others lost relatives or their entire families among the 250,000 people murdered there.

One of the plaintiffs, Sobibor survivor Thomas Blatt, told journalists on his way into court he was not looking for revenge.

"I'm here to tell the way it was years ago, I don't know Demjanjuk in person," he said.

This is the second time John Demjanjuk has appeared in court.

Two decades ago, he was sentenced to death in Israel, convicted of being Ivan the Terrible, a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp.

But that ruling was overturned after new evidence showed that another Ukrainian was probably responsible.
 
 
 
Source: BBC
 
 

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