Canada East | 10Jun2010 | Andrea Jarach (AP)

Expert witness says photo once removed from Nazi ID card being as evidence against Demjanjuk

MUNICH - A former U.S. Secret Service forensics expert testified Thursday that the photo on a Nazi-issued identity card being used by prosecutors against John Demjanjuk, which the defence argues is a fake, appears to have been removed and later reattached.

Demjanjuk, who turned 90 in April, is standing trial on some 28,000 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he was a guard at the Nazi's Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. He denies ever being at any camp, claiming he is the victim of mistaken identity.

But the prosecution has argued the identity card has Demjanjuk's picture on it and indicates he was a guard at Sobibor.

Larry Stewart, who analyzed the identity card and 21 other documents being used in the case in 2000 by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations, said he found staple holes through the photograph but not through the card itself.

He told the Munich state court that indicates the photograph -- which is now glued to the document -- was once stapled to another piece of paper.

Demjanjuk's defence team maintains the card, which was originally in Russian hands, is a fake made by the KGB and that the staple holes indicate it was taken from another document to produce a forgery.

But Stewart said that was not necessarily the case, testifying that in his experience photographs often fell off wartime documents as they aged and were then stapled to separate pieces of paper in postwar archives. He said the fact that there was no rust around the staple holes indicated that they were made after the war, when iron staples were no longer used.

There is "no indication that the Demjanjuk ID was counterfeited," he told the court.

In previous testimony he conceded that a counterfeiter with the right materials could have forged the documents he analyzed, but that he believed them to be genuine.

Stewart testified over the objections of Demjanjuk's defence team, which had argued that he should not be used as an expert witness because of his association with the Office of Special Investigations, which investigated Demjanjuk in the United States. The defence also argued Stewart's qualifications as an expert were tainted because he had been charged in the U.S. for perjury -- though acquitted by a jury.