Israel again bars Demjanjuk's release Move aids foes seeking new trial

August 21, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- The president of Israel's Supreme Court again delayed yesterday the release of John Demjanjuk, acquitted last month of being the Nazi death camp guard "Ivan the Terrible," giving Holocaust survivors and Nazi hunters more time to press for a second trial.

Justice Meir Shamgar said he would allow two weeks for the preparation of legal arguments justifying a new trial of Mr. Demjanjuk on other war-crimes charges.

Justice Shamgar's decision was procedural, however. He gave no real encouragement to those seeking Mr. Demjanjuk's prosecution on charges that, if he was not the sadistic "Ivan the Terrible" of the Treblinka death camp in World War II, he had been trained for a Nazi unit organized to exterminate Jews and had served at Sobibor, another death camp.

"I have decided to carry out the delay of the deportation order [which would free Mr. Demjanjuk] until the presentation of a request for a further hearing," Justice Shamgar said.

That hearing will be to appeal the decision earlier this week by three Supreme Court judges rejecting demands for a new trial. The judges held, as had the Israeli attorney general, that another trial would violate Mr. Demjanjuk's legal right not to be prosecuted a second time on the same charges.

Under Israeli court procedures, Justice Shamgar has up to 15 days, until Sept. 2, to decide whether to allow an appeal of that decision to a larger panel of judges. Yesterday, he gave the maximum amount of time permitted so that legal arguments could be prepared and perhaps additional evidence found.

Justice Shamgar, who wrote last month's decision overturning Mr. Demjanjuk's 1988 conviction as "Ivan the Terrible," appeared to be taking into consideration the feelings of those who survived the Holocaust that Mr. Demjanjuk was escaping prison on technicalities. He had been sentenced to death in 1988.

"This is a very historic day," said Yisrael Yehezkeli, 75, a Holocaust survivor who is among those petitioning for another trial. "It is an honor for the court that they are continuing to hold this murderer."

Noam Federman, another of the nine petitioners, who is a leader of the ultra-rightist Kach movement, said: "I am happy for every day that Demjanjuk is suffering. It is only small retribution, it's true, but it should give every Jew some pleasure.

"Even if they agree to another trial, Demjanjuk will eventually get out. But when he does there will be someone to take care of him -- count on it," Mr. Federman added. Kach has threatened several times to kill Mr. Demjanjuk if he is freed.

Yoram Sheftel, Mr. Demjanjuk's Israeli attorney, protested Israel's continued imprisonment of the 73-year-old retired autoworker despite his acquittal and the attorney general's decision not to press further charges.

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