Judge won't suspend Demjanjuk plea over FBI file

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2011 1:55 PM
Judge won't suspend Demjanjuk plea over FBI file

A German court on Thursday rejected a defense request to suspend John Demjanjuk's trial over a declassified FBI report that cast doubt on the authenticity of a key piece of evidence.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that a 1985 FBI file indicated the agency believed a Nazi ID card that was used as evidence in the Munich trial and purportedly showed that Demjanjuk served as a death camp guard was a Soviet-made fake.

AP's story "does not offer any grounds for a suspension," Judge Ralph Alt said. "The report does not bring forth any concrete aspects that have not already been analyzed as part of the examination of evidence."

Ulrich Busch, a defense attorney for 90-year-old, Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, had sought to postpone proceedings so he could travel to the United States to examine the new material. Bush has repeatedly tried to have the trial suspended or otherwise delayed since it opened in Nov. 2009. A verdict is expected next month.

While the defense has repeatedly claimed that the ID card and other evidence against their client are Soviet forgeries, the FBI document was the first to indicate that U.S. investigators had had doubts.

Before and during the trial, the ID was examined by several experts, all of whom have declared it to be genuine.

Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr. said the court's ruling deprived the defense of materials that could help set his father free.

"The decision to slam the door on more evidence continues a long trail of prosecutorial misconduct and the withholding of exculpatory evidence," he said in an email to the AP. "The Germans are afraid of what they will find."

Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker, is accused of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he served as a guard at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp. He rejects the charges.

Closing arguments by the co-plaintiffs, who are allowed under German law, continued Thursday. Manuel Bloch, an attorney from the Netherlands who lost family members in the Holocaust, urged the court to convict Demjanjuk.

"The evidence in the case against Mr. Demjanjuk is abundant and fits like the pieces of a puzzle," Bloch said. "The picture that emerges ... is crystal clear: Mr. Demjanjuk worked ... in destruction camp Sobibor, and should therefore be convicted for being an accessory to murder."

Another of the roughly 40 co-plaintiffs, Judith Aschkenasy, who now lives in Israel, asked the court to sentence him to the maximum 15-year prison term.

Demjanjuk followed the proceedings from behind dark sunglasses, lying in a bed in the courtroom.

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Melissa Eddy and David Rising contributed to this story from Berlin.