WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. immigration judge on Monday lifted the stay of deportation for accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, who faces charges in Germany in the deaths of 29,000 Jews, but ruled he still could pursue his bid to reopen his case.
Although he lifted the stay effective on Wednesday, the judge ruled that lawyers for the 89-year-old retired Ohio autoworker should have filed the request to reopen his case with another immigration court - a step that could result in a new delay.
Lawyers for Demjanjuk last week asked for an emergency stay. They said his health was so poor he could not make the trip and they asked to reopen his case on the grounds that removal to Germany would constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
John Demjanjuk Jr. said his father’s lawyers will file by Tuesday with the Board of Immigration Appeals to extend the stay of deportation and to reopen the case.
“This is good news as now the entire (board) will have the opportunity to properly review our position. The more judges that see our case, the better our chances at stopping this inhumane and reckless action,” he said.
Immigration Judge Wayne Iskra in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday granted the stay, acting just two days before Demjanjuk was to have been sent to Germany.
Demjanjuk’s lawyers have said he had spinal problems, kidney failure, anemia, was very weak and needed help to stand up or move about.
The Ukraine native has denied any role in the Holocaust. He said he was drafted into the Russian army in 1941, became a German prisoner of war a year later and served at German prison camps until 1944.
Demjanjuk was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988 for being a sadistic guard “Ivan the Terrible” at Treblinka where 870,000 died. That country’s highest court later ruled he was not “Ivan” and he returned to the United States.
But U.S. officials in 2002 stripped him of his citizenship, saying that he had worked at three other camps and hid that information at his U.S. entry in 1951.
He was ordered deported in December 2006, but remained in the country through legal challenges and because there were no demands from other countries that he be sent to them.
Last year, Germany’s chief Nazi war crimes investigator, Kurt Schrimm, asked prosecutors in Munich, where Demjanjuk lived before he emigrated to the United States, to charge him with involvement in the murder of 29,000 Jews.
Schrimm said his office had evidence Demjanjuk had been a guard at Sobibor death camp and personally led Jews to the gas chambers.
Last month, Munich prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Demjanjuk and asked the United States to deport him so he could stand trial.
The immigration judge said both a U.S. appeals court based in Ohio and the Board of Immigration Appeals have issued final orders in Demjanjuk’s case allowing his deportation.
The judge ruled that the motion to reopen the case was “misfiled” with the immigration court and that jurisdiction over the request properly lies with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Iskra in a brief order revoked the stay of deportation and ordered that Demjanjuk’s motion to reopen his case be returned without a decision.
Additional reporting by Sharon Reich in Cleveland; Editing by Doina Chiacu