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Demjanjuk asks Supreme Court to stop deportation

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M.R. KROPKO | May 6, 2009 07:14 PM EST | AP

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CLEVELAND — John Demjanjuk, branded by the U.S. government a Nazi death camp guard, on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to stop his deportation to Germany, where an arrest warrant accuses him of 29,000 counts of accessory to murder during World War II. A federal appeals court in Ohio has cleared the way for deporting him. The 89-year-old retired autoworker, his family and his lawyer say he's in poor health and too frail to be sent overseas.

The Supreme Court didn't say when or if it would rule. The appeal goes first to Justice John Paul Stevens, who can decide the request on his own or refer it to the full court.

The arrest warrant in Germany accuses Demjanjuk of being a guard at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943. Demjanjuk, a native Ukrainian, maintains he was a prisoner of war, not a camp guard. Evidence the U.S. government has used against him includes a Nazi document, an identification card placing him at a training camp and then at various death or forced-labor camps, including Sobibor.

A German court on Wednesday rejected an attempt to block his deportation, saying the issue would have to be decided by American courts.

The U.S. Department of Justice would "respond in court as appropriate," spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said Wednesday.

Demjanjuk remains in his home in the Cleveland suburb Seven Hills. On April 14, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers entered his home, placed him in a wheelchair and carried him outside to a waiting van.

He was taken to a holding area at immigration enforcement offices in Cleveland and was there a few hours until the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati granted an emergency stay. The court considered his case before ending that stay and refusing to issue another Friday.

Demjanjuk sought the Supreme Court's help last year, without success.

In 2005, the nation's chief U.S. immigration judge ruled Demjanjuk could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine. Demjanjuk's lawyer appealed that ruling, arguing another immigration judge should have been assigned to the case. On May 19, 2008, the Supreme Court declined to hear that appeal.

Demjanjuk's son in Ohio, John Demjanjuk Jr., said Wednesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the United States and Germany are facing a human rights issue now.

He said both nations should consider that his father is old and in poor health and that he previously was extradited to Israel for a war crimes trial. Israel's Supreme Court decided in 1993 to allow him to go back to Ohio based on evidence someone else was the notorious Nazi guard Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka.

The U.S. ended its Ivan the Terrible case but made other Nazi guard charges.

"If my father is deported to Germany and found unfit for trial for medical reasons or is acquitted again as he was in Israel," Demjanjuk Jr. said, "he will remain a resident of Germany and Germany will be responsible for his care, not the U.S. Germany will have violated his human rights as he would be unable to return to his family if he survives the ordeal."

Attorney Ulrich Busch, representing Demjanjuk in Germany, has been attempting to stop the deportation, arguing that Demjanjuk is medically unfit for travel and trial and that if Germany wants him it should formally extradite him.

A Berlin court on Wednesday ruled on an emergency suit filed last week against the German Justice Ministry. The judges rejected the argument that Germany could block the deportation, saying that the decision lies with American authorities, court spokesman Stephan Groscurth said.

The U.S. Department of Justice, in opposing the Demjanjuk appeal in Ohio, submitted as evidence surveillance video showing Demjanjuk emerging from a building and walking unassisted to the passenger side door of a car in a parking lot. That video is in contrast with the moaning Demjanjuk seen as he was carried from his home.

In the U.S., Demjanjuk's lawyer, John Broadley, said he hopes the Supreme Court will allow at least 90 days so he can argue that the federal appeals court in Ohio erred last week when it denied Demjanjuk a stay of deportation. But the Department of Justice has said Demjanjuk has used court filings as a delay tactic.

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Associated Press writer David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.