Demjanjuk called victim of U.S.-Israeli conspiracy

December 24, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- The appeals hearing of John Demjanjuk, accused of sadistically sending Jews to their deaths in a Nazi concentration camp, reopened yesterday with the defense lawyer charging his client is the victim of an American and Israeli plot and the prosecution complaining that the defense was doing the work of people who "hate Jews."

Little was said directly about new evidence obtained from the Soviet KGB, which reportedly throws into question the conviction and death sentence handed down for Demjanjuk, 71, a Cleveland, Ohio, auto worker from Ukraine.

Yoram Sheftel, Demjanjuk's lawyer, spent most of the long day's arguments charging that his client was the victim of a "plot," in which evidence was hidden by American and Israeli officials for 13 years.

Prosecutor Michael Shaked denied any conspiracy. He seemed to have lost interest in proving that Demjanjuk, who was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and extradited to Israel in 1985, was ever at the Polish camp of Treblinka.

Mr. Shaked, instead, spoke of the possibility that Demjanjuk was at other camps.

The court called a three-week recess before he could finish his arguments. After five hours of hearings, it adjourned until Jan. 15.

Evidence gleaned from KGB files over the past 15 months and presented to the Supreme Court in August throws doubt on the conclusion that Demjanjuk was "Ivan the Terrible."

Testimony from other guards, all of whom were executed in the Soviet Union for war crimes, gave the Treblinka guard's name as Ivan Marchenko. In the original lower court trial, the testimony of elderly survivors put Demjanjuk in Treblinka.

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