WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. court on Friday blocked the deportation of accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, two days before he was to have been sent to Germany to face charges in the deaths of 29,000 Jews.
“It appears there will be no deportation Sunday. The immigration judge granted our motion for stay of deportation,” John Demjanjuk Jr. said in an e-mail.
The order from Wayne Iskra, an immigration judge in Arlington, Virginia, said the stay would remain in effect until the question of whether his case should be reopened is decided.
Lawyers for the 89-year-old retired automobile industry worker, who lives near Cleveland, had asked for an emergency stay, saying Demjanjuk’s health was so poor he could not make the trip.
They said he had spinal problems, kidney failure, anemia, was very weak and needed help to stand up or move about.
The Ukraine native 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.
He was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988 for being a sadistic guard “Ivan the Terrible” at Treblinka where 870,000 died. That country’s highest court later ruled he was not “Ivan” and he returned to the United States.
But U.S. officials in 2002 stripped him of his citizenship, saying that he had worked at three other camps and hid that information at his U.S. entry in 1951.
He was ordered deported in December 2006, but remained in the country through legal challenges and because there were no demands from other countries that he be sent to them.
Last year, Germany’s chief Nazi war crimes investigator, Kurt Schrimm, asked prosecutors in Munich, where Demjanjuk lived before he emigrated to the United States, to charge him with involvement in the murder of 29,000 Jews.
Schrimm said his office had evidence Demjanjuk had been a guard at Sobibor and personally led Jews to the gas chambers.
Last month, Munich prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Demjanjuk and asked the United States to deport him so he could stand trial.
His son said earlier this week: “Given the amount of suffering and death that was meted out by Nazi Germany, it seems inconceivable that the Germans, who nearly killed my father in combat and again later in POW camps, now want to take him - so elderly and weak he is unable to care for himself.”
Reporting by Sharon Reich and Jim Vicini; Writing by Michael Conlon; Editing by Doina Chiacu