A former Nazi death camp guard won a last-minute stay of deportation, shortly after US immigration agents carried the 89-year-old from his home in a wheelchair to face trial in Germany.
The ruling came in response to a petition filed earlier on Tuesday by John Demjanjuk, who is accused of having voluntarily served at the Sobibor and Majdanek concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.
“The petitioner’s motion for a stay of removal is granted, pending further consideration of the matters presented by the petition and motion,” said an order from the US federal appeals court.
Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk’s reprieve from extradition to Germany came the same day immigration officials carried him wailing from his home in Ohio.
His 20-year-old granddaughter Olivia Nishnic said she was horrified by what she had witnessed.
“It makes me sick. I never thought in a million years I’d see my grandfather wheeled out in a wheelchair, screaming in agony because he’s in so much pain,” she said. “I feel I definitely won’t ever be the same from seeing something like that.”
Demjanjuk faces charges of aiding in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews during World War II.
The ruling was the latest twist in a long saga for Demjanjuk, who narrowly escaped being hanged for war crimes in Israel and has spent years in court fighting to keep the US citizenship he obtained in 1958.
Demjanjuk was allowed to return home with an electronic tracking bracelet around his ankle, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.
Neither the Justice Department nor ICE would comment further except to say that the government would “continue to litigate” the case and work closely with Germany to “effectuate Demjanjuk’s removal from the United States.”
Demjanjuk’s lawyer has argued that his client is in poor health, and that jailing and trying him in Germany would cause him pain amounting to torture. His family says he suffers from kidney disease and blood disorders.
“He will face his moment of justice,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who is certain that Demjanjuk will lose his latest appeal and be deported to Germany.
While acknowledging that Tuesday had been traumatic for Demjanjuk’s family, Hier argued that ill health and old age were not reasons not to hold him accountable.
“I don’t have any pity for the fact that he’s 89 because I think of the victims he helped push into the gas chambers who would have loved to have 89 years,” Hier said.