Health issues raised again at Demjanjuk trial

AP News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2010 11:07 AM
Health issues raised again at Demjanjuk trial

A German judge ordered that the trial of John Demjanjuk go ahead Monday after overruling the defense's argument the 90-year-old's health is deteriorating and that he can no longer concentrate on the proceedings.

Presiding Judge Ralph Alt ruled that the session should continue after the court doctor said he could see no signs that Demjanjuk's health had deteriorated.

Demjanjuk, who was deported from the U.S. to Germany in May 2009, is being tried on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder over allegations that he served as a guard at the Nazi's Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.

He denies the charges, saying he never served the Nazis as a guard anywhere. The defense maintains Demjanjuk was a Soviet soldier captured by the Germans and spent most of the war in prison camps himself.

Demjanjuk suffers from a number of medical problems, and since his trial began last November a dozen sessions have been canceled due to health issues.

He arrives by wheelchair to the courtroom and lies in a hospital bed during the proceedings, usually wearing dark sunglasses.

Defense attorney Ulrich Busch told the court Monday that his condition has worsened, and that he is now in almost constant pain and cannot follow the proceedings, nor read the documents being submitted as evidence.

"It is difficult for him to read the text and he can do so only sporadically, for a maximum of 10 minutes," Busch told the court.

Demjanjuk has been found fit for trial, however, and court doctor Albrecht Stein said after Busch's complaint that he saw no indications his condition had changed. That prompted Alt to order the session to go ahead with a witness's testimony.

Demjanjuk _ who is usually silent during the court sessions _ moaned regularly during the proceedings and was given pain killers twice by Stein.

Near the end of the day Stein said heart problems could be causing the pain, but that he could not say for sure without an electrocardiogram, and said one would be done later at the prison hospital where Demjanjuk is being held.