15 Apr 2009

US seizes accused Nazi guard, court halts deportation

11:28 am on 15 April 2009

A US appeals court halted the deportation of accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk on Tuesday, just hours after immigration agents carried him out of his Ohio home to send him to Germany for trial.

Agents descended on Mr Demjanjuk's suburban home, brought in a doctor and, after a check, loaded the 89-year-old retired auto worker into a van in a wheelchair as his weeping wife stood by.

He had been scheduled to be flown immediately to Munich, where he faces charges over the deaths of 29,000 Jews but instead was taken to a federal building in downtown Cleveland. Whether he would remain there or be sent back home was not clear.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reported a plane was standing by to take him to Germany. A Justice Department spokesman said it "will continue to litigate this matter in court."

Prosecutors in Germany accuse him of being an accessory in 1943 killings at Sobibor death camp, where more than 200,000 people were murdered. He is alleged to have personally led Jews to the gas chambers at the camp in Polish territory then occupied by Nazi Germany.

His son, John Jr., traveled to Cincinnati to deliver an 11th-hour appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that deporting his ailing father to Germany amounted to torture and that the trip alone might kill him.

Two judges from the federal appeals court in Cincinnati ordered the deportation stopped while it weighed whether Mr Demjanjuk deserved another hearing and prosecutors' response that the legal case was at an end.