Kyiv Post | 09Nov2010 | Associated Press

Update: Accused Ukrainian-born Nazi guard says he's too sick for trial

(AP) -- John Demjanjuk, on trial on charges he served as a guard at a Nazi death camp, told judges Tuesday in a rare in-court statement that he was in such pain that he could no longer concentrate on the proceedings.

Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker, is standing trial on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for allegedly having been a guard at the camp in occupied Poland. He denies ever having been a guard anywhere.

Demjanjuk usually attends the Munich state court sessions lying in a hospital bed, wearing dark sunglasses, and he rarely says anything.

The 90-year-old's health increasingly has become an issue in the proceedings, which began last November, and his defense team has argued he is no longer fit to stand trial. A dozen trial dates have been canceled due to medical problems.

Tuesday's session began with court doctor Albrecht Stein telling the judges that Demjanjuk was complaining of pain again, and saying it could be related to his spinal stenosis -- a narrowing of the spinal canal that compresses the spinal cord and nerves.

But Stein also testified that the pain could be a mental issue, caused by depression, and that he would ask prison doctors whether Demjanjuk should undergo a psychological examination to determine whether he should be treated with antidepressants.

When Demjanjuk was asked what was bothering him, he replied, "All I can say is I need to be brought to the hospital, and not the courtroom."

Later, when asked by judges if he wanted to examine a document being submitted as evidence, he told them: "That is a joke. With my pain I cannot look at anything. I can't even hear anymore."

He was later given pain medication by Stein.

Demjanjuk's family blasted the court for going on with the trial, saying it was ignoring medical evidence including the X-rays of his spine.

"They don't need a psychologist to examine an X-ray," John Demjanjuk Jr. told The Associated Press in an e-mail. "To suggest the pain is possibly mental is an outright lie for the media and flatly ignores the medical reports."

Defense attorney Ulrich Busch had asked to speak directly with the two prison hospital doctors who have been responsible for Demjanjuk to see if their opinions differed from that of Dr. Stein, but was informed by prison authorities on Nov. 2 that they would direct all communications through the judges hearing the case, according to a letter obtained by the AP.

Presiding Judge Ralph Alt said at the end of the session, however, that he has requested that one of the doctors from the prison come in to testify. He said it was not clear when that would place.

In testimony Tuesday, the court read statements given by two former Ukrainian guards at Sobibor during interrogations by Soviet authorities, one in 1949 and the other in 1979.

One, Ivan Ivchenko, told Soviet interrogators that he did not recall the name Demjanjuk even though the two allegedly served at Sobibor during the same time in 1943. The other gave Soviet interrogators a long list of names he remembered from Sobibor and other camps, but Demjanjuk was not among them.