Spanish judge targets alleged Nazi guards in US

Prosecutor calls for int'l arrest warrants for 3 alleged former Nazi death camp guards, cites evidence they were accessories to genocide.

Demjanjuk court 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Demjanjuk court 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A Spanish prosecutor called Friday for international arrest warrants for three alleged former Nazi death camp guards living in the United States, saying evidence shows they acted as accessories to genocide. A final decision on whether to request the arrest and extradition of the three is up to Spanish judge Ismael Moreno, who has been investigating since July at the request of a human rights group representing Spaniards who were held at Nazi camps. Prosecutor Pedro Martinez Torrijos said Spain has jurisdiction under its principle of universal justice, which allows grave crimes committed elsewhere to be prosecuted in Spain, and because there were Spanish victims. The suspects are Anton Tittjung, of Kewaunee, Wis.; Josias Kumpf, who lives in Racine, Wis.; and Johann Leprich, who lives near Detroit. A fourth suspect in the Spanish probe - retired Ohio auto worker John Demjanjuk - was deported from the United States to Germany earlier this month. Martinez Torrijos said that for the time being he will not seek Demjanjuk's arrest but he does not rule it out in the future. In a request to the National Court, the prosecutor said "the investigation carried out so far has confirmed at least circumstantially that the suspects took part in the events that occurred" at three Nazi death camps. The camps in question are Flossenberg and Sachsenhausen, in Germany, and Mauthausen in Nazi-occupied Austria. Equipo Nizkor, the Brussels-based rights group that filed the original complaint in Spain, says thousands of Spaniards were among the millions killed in Nazi concentration camps. It says more than 7,000 Spaniards were held at Mauthausen, for instance, and at least 4,300 of them died. The group says US authorities have tried for years to deport the four suspects, alleging they lied about their Nazi pasts on their immigration papers. Most Spaniards in Nazi camps were leftist Republicans who fled to France during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 and were captured while fighting German troops. Spanish judges have used the principle of universal justice to go after former Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet in 1998 and Osama bin Laden in 2003, but extraditions and convictions have been extremely rare. The cross-border cases have angered other countries recently, in particular Israel, which objected to a probe into an air force bombing in Gaza in 2002 that targeted a suspected Hamas terrorist but also left 14 civilians dead. Spanish judges are also probing alleged torture at the US prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Spain's ruling Socialist Party and the opposition conservatives have agreed to narrow the scope of Spanish law so cross-border cases can only be brought if there is a clear link to Spain, and Parliament is expected to vote on the change it later this year.