Demjanjuk's lawyers calls to abandon trial

By Jessica Elgot, January 12, 2010

The alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk may have his trial postponed yet again after an appeal from his lawyer.

The 89-year-old Ukrainian is on trial in Munich charged with being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor death camp.

The case resumed today after being suspended in early December due to Demjanjuk’s apparent ill health.

His defence lawyer Ulrich Busch has launched a new argument that German law cannot be applied to Demjanjuk, who was born in the Ukraine.

He has also argued that the trial must be suspended while documents from Demjanjuk’s previous trials in Israel and the US are located.

He told the court in Munich: "The defence couldn't be prepared because of the missing documents."

Demjanjuk’s lawyers have repeatedly called for the trial to be abandoned because of their client’s ill health. He is said to have a serious bone marrow disease.

After the war, he emigrated to the US in the early 1950s, where he lived in Ohio and worked as a car mechanic.

In 1981, a court in Ohio found him guilty of lying on his immigration form, hiding his SS membership. He was deported to Israel where he was identified by survivors in Israel as "Ivan the Terrible," a Ukrainian staff member at Treblinka.

Demjanjuk was found guilty of crimes against humanity at both Sobibor and Treblinka. He was sentenced to death in Israel in 1987.

He spent seven years in prison but after launching an appeal, claiming mistaken identity, he was acquitted in 1993.

But more paperwork was uncovered about Demjanjuk’s time at Sobibor and he was deported to Germany earlier this year.

Even if Demjanjuk is acquitted, he is unlikely to be able to return to the US and will probably have to remain in Germany.

    Last updated: 4:38pm, January 14 2010