Kiev Stalls Former Nazi's Extradition

KIEV, Ukraine -- Kiev will study the US decision to extradite convicted ex-Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk to Ukraine before deciding whether to let him return to the United States, a process which could take years, Ukrainian officials have said.

Accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk (C), is helped out of a vehicle upon his arrival at Federal Court in Cleveland

"According to general practice" and "Ukrainian law, the US court decision must be examined by competent Ukrainian officials, such as the prosecutor general," the foreign ministry's spokesman Vasyl Filipchuk said.

Demjanjuk, 85, a convicted former Nazi concentration camp guard whose legal battles with the American and Israeli governments have dragged on for 28 years, was ordered on Wednesday to be deported to his native Ukraine.

However, a source in the Ukrainian ministry said that as Demjanjuk had no Ukrainian citizenship, "this is a 100-per cent reason to refuse accepting him."

According to this source, principal conclusions would be drawn by Ukrainian security services, who would then transmit them to the prosecutor general.

"If in those two cases the conclusion is positive, a political decision would have to be made" as to whether to accept or refuse his extradition, the source said, adding that the procedure could take "years".

Officially, Ukraine had so far received no official request from the United States on this issue, Mr Filipchuk said, adding that "we have only media reports."

If Ukraine refuses the extradition, Demjanjuk would be deported to Germany or Poland.

Demjanjuk's legal odyssey began in 1977 when the US Justice Department first accused him of being a Ukrainian prison camp guard nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible", who tortured Jewish inmates and operated gas chambers at three camps that killed 900,000 people.

A US Federal judge stripped Demjanjuk of his US citizenship in 1981 for lying about his Nazi past when he first entered the United States in 1952. The Justice Department then began proceedings to deport him to Ukraine.

Israel requested Demjanjuk's extradition in 1983 to face war crime charges. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. The conviction was overturned in 1993 when the Israeli Supreme Court heard testimony from former death camp guards and labourers that another man was actually Ivan the Terrible.

Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker, returned to his home in a Cleveland suburb and restored his citizenship in 1998.

Judge Michael Creppy stripped Demjanjuk of his citizenship for a second time last June and the Justice Department applied to have him deported.

Demanjanjuk applied for asylum and argued he would likely be tortured if he was deported to his native Ukraine.

Source: AFP

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