Monday, May 9, 2011

German 'Nazi guard' trial expected to end this week

Defendant John Demjanjuk arrives for another session of his trial on May 3, 2011 in Munich, southern Germany. -- PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN - THE trial of 91-year-old alleged Nazi camp guard John Demjanjuk is due to end this week, marking a watershed moment in Germany's bid to atone judicially for its World War II crimes.

68 years after the facts, the verdict on whether Demjanjuk is guilty of helping to murder 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp, in occupied Poland, could come as early as Thursday.

The high-profile trial, which opened 18 months ago in the southern German city of Munich, has been seen as one of the last to involve an alleged Nazi war criminal, and has led to much soul-searching on the subject of delayed justice.

The fact that the accused was a Ukrainian-born prisoner-of-war who now faces justice at the hands of the nation behind the Holocaust has also raised questions. His lawyer, Ulrich Busch, described him as 'a victim of Germany's justice system' when calling last week for his acquittal, and says he will seek compensation for his client.
Serge Klarsfeld, the French lawyer and Nazi hunter, expressed frustration with the trial, saying it failed to provide new details about the case and could not prove Demjanjuk's direct participation in the killings. 'The witnesses are all dead and there are no documents because he was only a small fish,' Mr Klarsfeld told AFP. A guilty verdict 'would open the door to accusations of unfair justice,' he added.

If acquitted, Demjanjuk could be extradited to Spain, where prosecutors have prepared a separate case against him. German prosecutors have called for a six-year jail term for the former Red Army soldier who denied all charges but volunteered little information about his time as a prisoner-of-war of the Germans after 1942. -- AFP

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