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A US immigration judge ordered the deportation of John Demjanjuk, who was a guard in Nazi camps during World War II. The judge did not accept Demjanjuk's lawyer's claim that if he were to be deported to Ukraine he may face torture.
In a decision issued Wednesday in Arlington, chief immigration judge Michael Creppy said that Demjanjuk had lied to US immigration authorities when he entered the country after the war and did not disclose the fact that he had assisted the Nazis by serving as a guard at concentration and death camps.
Demjanjuk, 85, intends to appeal the deportation order within the next 30 days. He can still ask the US Board of Immigration to review his case and also has the option to appeal to the circuit court and the US Supreme Court. These appellate courts have rejected Demjanjuk's claims in the past.
Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, told The Jerusalem Post that Wednesday's decision by Creppy "brings the government one step closer to removing John Demjanjuk from the US." It is not yet clear how long the appeal process will take, though the administrative review by the Board of Immigration is expected to end within several months.
Dr. Ephraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Weisenthal Center in Israel, said Thursday that the deportation decision might be difficult to implement due to Ukraine's reluctance to prosecute and sentence Nazi era war criminals. "Since Ukraine became a democracy there was no attempt to bring to justice Nazi war criminals," said Zuroff, who also noted that in the Weisenthal Center's annual report on dealing with war criminals, Ukraine received an 'F'.
Zuroff also said that Demjanjuk's age should not be a factor in pushing forward the legal suit against him, adding that the years that have passed since the crimes do not make the crimes any less serious.
"If we'd ignore crimes only because of the criminal's age, we would be sending a message that one can commit genocide and not face justice," Zuroff said.
The case against Demjanjuk, a retired auto worker living in a Cleveland suburb, has gone on for almost three decades, since evidence first emerged concerning his past as a Nazi camp guard. Demjanjuk was accused of being "Ivan the Terrible," a sadistic guard from the Treblinka death camp. This issue later became central to the legal dispute in the US and Israel.
Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel in 1986 and was sentenced to death by a special panel in Jerusalem. In 1993 the Israeli Supreme Court found flaws in the documents identifying Demjanjuk as "Ivan the terrible" and he was acquitted.
Demjanjuk returned to the US and faced another round of legal procedures, this time because he had not revealed his past service in the Nazi camps to US immigration.
In his decision Wednesday, Creppy did not give much credit to claims set forth by Demjanjuk's lawyer, John H. Broadley, that his client would face torture in Ukraine because of his past.
Creppy concluded that there is no threat of torture in Ukraine and added that there is no evidence that Ukraine arrests or prosecutes citizens that assisted the Nazis. Creppy said in his decision that if the Ukraine will refuse to accept Demjanjuk, he could be deported to Poland or Germany.
Demjanjuk himself did not comment on the deportation order. According to members of his family he is suffering from health problems and can hardly walk. In the last court hearing he attended in February, Demjanjuk did not walk and complained of pains.
Broadley told the Post Thursday that Demjanjuk's family was disappointed to hear of the immigration judge's ruling, but added that he has not spoken to Demjanjuk directly.
According to the court, Demjanjuk served as a guard in three Nazi camps. In Sobibor he led Jews from the trains to the gas chambers. In Majdanek and Flossenburg, Demjanjuk and other guards prevented Jews from escaping, leaving them to die in the hands of the Nazis.