Demjanjuk lawyer: He's not fit for trial

Attorney calls for case against alleged ex-Nazi guard to be closed due to his health, shaky evidence.

Demjanjuk court 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Demjanjuk court 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
John Demjanjuk's attorney filed two motions Thursday for the Nazi death-camp case against his client to be closed, arguing that the 89-year-old is not fit to stand trial and that the evidence against him is shaky. Attorney Ulrich Busch said the health of the retired auto worker has been deteriorating. Doctors last month declared Demjanjuk fit to stand trial on charges that he was an accessory to the murder of 27,900 people at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. They said court hearings should be restricted to two 90-minute sessions per day, but Busch said his client is not even up to that. Busch said he met with his client for two hours on Tuesday and they had to take long and frequent breaks for Demjanjuk to rest. "The health of my client is getting progressively worse," Busch told the AP. Busch said Demjanjuk is in a weakened state and particularly susceptible to illness, and that a public trial could be lethal to him. "For example, if it begins in the fall, there will be 200 people there and if one has the swine flu, that would be the end of him," Busch said. He said Demjanjuk (dem-YAHN'-yuk) suffers from Myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disease, and could only have months to live. He estimated that the trial could last two to four years, given the restrictions on sessions' length, the complexity of the evidence, and the fact that testimony will have to be translated into five languages to accommodate seven or eight people who have joined on as co-prosecutors as allowed under German law. Demjanjuk denies the accusations against him. He maintains that he was a Red Army soldier who was held as a prisoner of war and never hurt anyone. He was taken to Munich from his suburban Cleveland home in May after losing a court battle to avoid deportation from the US, and was formally charged by Bavarian prosecutors last month. The Munich state court must now decide whether to accept the charges - usually a formality - and set a trial date. In his other motion, Busch accused prosecutors of cherry-picking evidence to suit their purposes. Among other things, he cited statements made by Ignat Danilchenko, a now-deceased Ukrainian who served in the Soviet Army and was exiled to Siberia following World War II for helping the Nazis. In 1979, he told the KGB that he served with the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk at Sobibor and that Demjanjuk "like all guards in the camp, participated in the mass killing of Jews." Busch argued that German prosecutors in their indictment do not say that US investigators "are of the opinion that the testimony of Danilchenko is not trustworthy." "The prosecutors only picked out items that were beneficial to them and left everything else out," Busch said. He said that he did not know when the court might rule on the motions, and court spokeswoman Margarete Noetzel said she did not yet know whether they had reached judges yet.