John Demjanjuk, accused of being a Nazi death camp guard, marked his 89th birthday on Friday by winning a reprieve of his ordered deportation to Germany to face possible trial.
An immigration judge issued the stay of a deportation expected during the weekend, said his son, John Demjanjuk Jr.
Immigration Judge Wayne Iskra on Friday ordered that Demjanjuk’s deportation be put on hold until the court can rule on his request to reopen the US case that ordered his removal.
Germany says Demjanjuk had been expected there by tomorrow.
Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker who lives in a Cleveland suburb, kept out of sight on Friday, as he has for years. He has argued that his deportation would amount to torture, given his frail health.
A German arrest warrant issued last month accuses the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk of 29,000 counts of acting as an accessory to murder at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland during World War II.
In Germany, Demjanjuk would have a chance to respond to the allegations before a judge. He denies involvement in any deaths.
In a three-page signed statement, Demjanjuk asked earlier in the week for asylum in the US and said deporting him “will expose me to severe physical and mental pain that clearly amount to torture under any reasonable definition of the term.”
“I am physically very weak and experience severe spinal, hip and leg pain, which limits mobility and causes me to require assistance to stand up and move about,” the statement said. “Spending 8 to 12 hours in an airplane seat flying to Germany would be unbearably painful for me.”
In the statement, Demjanjuk said he suffers from a bone marrow disorder, kidney disease, anemia, kidney stones, arthritis, gout and spinal deterioration.
His attorney, John Broadley, said a government physician examined Demjanjuk on Thursday to determine his ability to travel and there was “dramatic evidence” of his back pain. Broadley submitted a portion of the exam videotape to the government on Friday as part of his argument against deportation.
In his statement seeking asylum, Demjanjuk questioned Germany’s motive in seeking his deportation and suggested the German government was trying to make up for lax earlier pursuit of war criminals.
“It is possible that the German authorities see a prosecution of me as means to draw attention away from their past approach,” the statement said.
A German Justice Ministry spokeswoman, Eva Schmierer, declined to comment on Demjanjuk’s statement.
Demjanjuk’s son, John Demjanjuk Jr, said in interview that the family was relieved.
“There’s a sense of relief that we don’t have to deal with the trauma for him and for our family and for the many, many people that have been sympathetic to his cause for many years, believing in his innocence and believing that he was a victim of the war as much as anyone else was, but he’s still in pain. He’s still ill,” he said.
Demjanjuk Jr said sending his ailing father to Germany would have led to a medical emergency.
“He would wind up in a German hospital. I don’t believe they would ever put him on trial,” he said.
Demjanjuk Jr said there was no merit to the German allegations.
“They are taking the old case and applying it to new allegations. There isn’t evidence of one single murder, let alone my father being involved in 29,000,” he said.
A court-appointed defense lawyer in Germany, Guenther Maull, said he would seek an examination of whether Demjanjuk is fit to be held in custody and stand trial. He said he does not expect a trial to begin before this summer.