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'Nazi guard' found guilty of murder
German court finds 91-year-old John Demjanjuk guilty of helping to kill thousands of Jews at concentration camp.
Last Modified: 12 May 2011 16:45
Judges ordered Demjanjuk free pending an appeal from the defence [Al Jazeera]

A court in Germany has found John Demjanjuk guilty of helping to kill 28,060 people, mainly Jews, in a Nazi concentration camp.

The 91-year-old was sentenced to five years in prison by a Munich court on Thursday as an accessory to mass murder during his time as a guard at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland.

But judges later ordered him free pending an appeal from the defence, which could take up to six months to launch.

Tim Friend, Al Jazeera's correspondent outside the court, said the verdict was a "dramatic moment".

"John Demjanjuk's health has been questionable during this entire trial. He has spent much of it on a stretcher in court.

"On this occasion as the judge read the verdict, he was in a wheelchair, he showed no apparent emotion.

"He heard the judge find him guilty... it brought to an end an 18-month trial here in Munich and 30 years of legal wrangling over Demjanjuk."

Extermination camp

Ralph Alt, the presiding judge at the trial, said Demjanjuk was a piece of the Nazis' "machinery of destruction".

"The court is convinced that the defendant ... served as a guard at Sobibor from 27 March 1943 to mid September 1943," he said.

Earlier in the day, Demjanjuk rejected an offer to make a final plea as the 18-month trial came to a close.

Asked by judges whether he wanted to say any final words, Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, speaking through an interpreter, replied: "No".

The judges also rejected requests by the defence to seek more evidence in the trial.

Demjanjuk was accused of working for six months at the Sobibor extermination camp in occupied Poland in 1943, during which time tens of thousands of Jews were gassed to death there.

The prosecution argued that if he worked as a camp guard, by definition, he was guilty of helping to kill all the Jews sent there at the time.

Demjanjuk said he fought in the Red Army before being captured by the Germans in 1942, and said that although he was recruited as a camp guard, he was not placed at Sobibor.

He said he remained a prisoner-of-war until the end of 1945, and later emigrated to the United States where he married and had a family.

But Israeli and US courts have established he was at the camp, where prosecutors say Jews were killed with a toxic mix of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

Demjanjuk served nearly eight years in an Israeli prison, five of them on death row after being found guilty in the 1980s of serving as a guard in another death camp - Treblinka - where he went by the name "Ivan the Terrible".

The Israeli supreme court later overturned the verdict and ordered his release on the grounds that he had likely been wrongly identified.

Much of the case for the prosecution had rested on whether an identity card, made out by the SS to one Ivan Demjanjuk who was trained with them to become a prison guard and who was sent to Sobibor, was genuine and belonged to the accused.

The defence insisted it was a fake.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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