By Andrew Stern
CHICAGO, May 1 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court cleared the way on Friday for U.S. authorities to deport accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk to Germany, dropping a stay that halted his removal at the last minute two weeks ago.
"The U.S. Government will continue to seek the removal of Mr. Demjanjuk to Germany," a Justice Department spokeswoman said, and refused to comment further.
But there was no indication when U.S. officials, frustrated in their last attempt, would again move against Demjanjuk.
Prosecutors in Munich, Germany have issued an arrest warrant to put the Ukraine-born Demjanjuk on trial for assisting in the deaths of 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp during World War Two.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that Demjanjuk’s argument — that moving the ailing 89-year-old former U.S. auto worker amounted to torture — was unlikely to succeed so they vacated the stay preventing his deportation.
The court said U.S. authorities planned to fly him in a jet equipped as an air ambulance with medical personnel standing by, and Germany had shown no intention of torturing him.
Demjanjuk’s son, John Jr., responded that the family was considering its options and may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has refused their appeals in the past. Earlier this week, the family filed suit in Germany to seek to stop the country from accepting Demjanjuk.
On April 14, U.S. agents carried Demjanjuk out of his suburban Cleveland home in a wheelchair and had a government-owned jet ready to take him to Germany but the Cincinnati appeals court intervened.
The family sought to block his deportation with the Arlington, Virginia, Board of Immigration Appeals, saying he suffered from numerous life-threatening ailments and moving him would violate the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture. The board refused to reopen the case.
Government prosecutors fired back that the torture claims were ridiculous and they filed medical assessments and even videos that they said showed Demjanjuk walking and in decent health.
Demjanjuk’s case has had numerous twists and turns since he emigrated from Germany in 1951.
He was deported from the United States to Israel and sentenced to death in 1988 as the sadistic guard "Ivan the Terrible" at Treblinka where 870,000 died. Israel’s highest court later ruled that he was not "Ivan" of Treblinka.
After spending years in an Israeli prison, he returned to his home near Cleveland in 1993 and his citizenship was restored in 1998. At the time, the appeals court in Cincinnati reprimanded the Justice Department for concealing evidence that would have exonerated him in the Ivan case.
U.S. Justice Department Nazi hunters reopened the case, and a U.S. court convicted him in 2002 of working at three other camps and he was stripped of his citizenship a second time. Then German prosecutors moved to try him.
Demjanjuk has denied any role in the Holocaust. He said he was drafted into the Russian army in 1941, became a German prisoner of war a year later and served at German prison camps until 1944. (Editing by Eric Walsh)