MUNICH (AP) — John Demjanjuk’s lawyer made a new attempt Tuesday to halt the 89-year-old’s trial on charges that he was an accessory to the murder of thousands of Jews at the Nazis’ Sobibor death camp.
Demjanjuk’s defense team has portrayed the retired Ohio auto worker, who was deported from the United States in May, as a victim of the Nazis and then of judicial authorities in several countries.
German prosecutors, however, say he was a guard at Sobibor and an accessory to the murder of 27,900 people.
Defense lawyer Ulrich Busch argued anew that German law can’t be applied to the case of the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk. He also called for the trial to be suspended so he can get documents from earlier proceedings against his client in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere that he said weren’t given to the defense.
“The defense couldn’t be prepared because of the missing documents,” he told the Munich state court.
Prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz roundly rejected Busch’s assertions, saying no documents had been withheld.
The court already has dismissed a string of similar motions from Busch to have the case thrown out or the trial halted. It was not clear when the judges would rule on the new arguments.
Demjanjuk was brought into court Tuesday in a wheelchair. He spent the session lying on a bed, with a blue baseball cap pulled down over his eyes.
The prosecution maintains that Demjanjuk, a Red Army soldier, volunteered to serve as a guard for the SS after his capture by the Germans in 1942. Demjanjuk denies ever having served as a guard.
Also Tuesday, the court heard testimony from historian Dieter Pohl, from Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University, on the Nazis’ campaign to exterminate Jews in occupied Poland, where the Sobibor camp was located.
“The sole purpose of the Sobibor camp was to murder people,” Pohl told the court.
There are no direct living witnesses to Demjanjuk’s alleged activities at Sobibor but prosecutors say if he was a guard there it means he was involved in the Nazi machinery of destruction.
The trial in Germany comes after 30 years of legal action against Demjanjuk on three continents.
Demjanjuk had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 1981 after the Justice Department alleged he hid his past as the notorious Treblinka guard “Ivan the Terrible.” He was extradited to Israel, where he was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1988, only to have the conviction overturned five years later as a case of mistaken identity.
In the latest prosecution, Demjanjuk is accused of serving as a “Wachmann” or guard, the lowest rank of the volunteers who were subordinate to German SS men. It is the first time a conviction has been sought against someone so low-ranking without proof of a specific offense.