CINCINNATI – The Justice Department began trying to deport former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk more than three decades ago, claiming that he was an armed guard at a Nazi death camp and helped murder Jewish prisoners in World War II.
Demjanjuk was extradited by Israel in 1986 and was under a death sentence until Israel`s Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that Demjanjuk was not the sadistic Treblinka death camp guard whom prisoners called “Ivan the Terrible.”
Since his return to the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills, the Justice Department continued its efforts to send Demjanjuk back to his native Ukraine – or Germany or Poland – saying it was sufficient that Demjanjuk falsified information on his applications to enter the U.S. in 1952 and to become a citizen in 1958.
His U.S. citizenship was revoked in 1981, restored in 1998 and revoked again in 2002. Now 87, Demjanjuk is facing what his lawyer says may be his last chance to stay in the U.S.
Oral arguments are scheduled for Thursday in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a motion to set aside a deportation order based on a U.S. District Court judge`s decision in 2002, affirmed on appeal in 2004, that Demjanjuk – although not “Ivan the Terrible” – was a guard at the Nazis` Sobibor extermination camp, where an estimated 250,000 Jews were murdered, and at two concentration camps in German-occupied Poland.
John Broadley, Demjanjuk`s lawyer, argued in briefs filed in July that Demjanjuk likely would be tortured in Ukraine if sent back there. The government contends there is no basis for that argument.
The Justice Department first brought charges seeking to revoke Demjanjuk`s citizenship and deport him on Aug. 25, 1977. Demjanjuk steadfastly has claimed that he was a Nazi prisoner himself, forced to work as a guard, and that he hurt no one.
In the current case, Demjanjuk`s attorney and the government argue whether a former chief immigration judge, Michael Creppy, had authority to rule in December 2005 that Demjanjuk can be deported.
Broadley contends that Creppy was an administrator who should have appointed an immigration judge to hear the case, rather than handle it himself. Broadley wants the deportation order tossed out and a new hearing held.
Creppy`s ruling permitted Demjanjuk to apply for a deferral of his removal order under the United Nations` Convention Against Torture.