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Cleveland Plain Dealer | 20Jul2011 | John Caniglia

John Demjanjuk's lawyers seek his return to the U.S.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Attorneys for John Demjanjuk want the 91-year-old returned to his Seven Hills home from Germany because they say federal prosecutors in the United States withheld documents that could have helped him in his fight to keep his citizenship.

The attorneys late Tuesday asked a judge in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to turn aside Demjanjuk's orders that stripped his citizenship and deported him, and they urged hearings here about the way prosecutors handled information in the case.

"It is time to right the scales of justice, clear Mr. Demjanjuk's name and bring him home to this country to live out the remainder of his life with his family," wrote attorneys Michael Tigar and Dennis Terez.

In May, Demjanjuk was convicted in Munich of being an accessory in the deaths of more than 28,000 people for his role as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He was sentenced to five years in prison, though he remains free pending his appeal.

Days before Demjanjuk's conviction, Terez, the federal public defender in Cleveland, questioned whether prosecutors had turned over all documents in the case to the defense. U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster allowed Terez's office to investigate and present any information to him.

But exactly how Demjanjuk could be released from his German conviction and returned to the United States remains unclear.

In the filings, Tigar and Terez said prosecutors had issues in turning over documents in Demjanjuk's case in the past. In 1993, an appeals court ruled prosecutors failed to turn over key documents to the defense, and Demjanjuk's attorneys said the issue continues.

They cited a Cleveland FBI agent's memo from March 1985 that said the Nazi identification card linking Demjanjuk to German service could be a type of document that "was quite likely fabricated by the KGB." They said the report was not turned over to the defense. It had been found in the spring by the Associated Press when the report became declassified.

"The importance to the defense team of the March 1985 Cleveland FBI documents in all of Mr. Demjanjuk's legal proceedings since FBI agents drafted those documents is incalculable," the attorneys wrote.

Prosecutors have dismissed the Cleveland FBI agent's report, saying it was based on mere speculation from an agent who didn't know much about the case. They also said a government expert had examined the card and defense experts had the same chance by at least 1981, some four years before the agent wrote the report.

Prosecutors also said in court documents that the FBI report was given to the German court for consideration, yet Demjanjuk was still convicted.

Eli Rosenbaum, the leader of the U.S. Justice Department's Nazi hunting unit, told the City Club last month that Jerome Brentar, a travel agent who helped Demjanjuk's defense in the late 1980s, spoke to the agent who wrote the report and suggested the likelihood of Soviets committing misconduct in Nazi cases. Rosenbaum said Brentar, who died in 2006, was a Holocaust denier.

"The agent bought it, hook, line and sinker," Rosenbaum said. The agent's name has not been made public, as it is still part of classified documents.

Rosenbaum could not be reached Wednesday.

The card has been tested several times in Demjanjuk's three-decade legal fight. He was first accused of being a Nazi guard in 1977, when authorities identified him as being a sadistic camp guard at the Treblinka death camp. He was extradited to Israel, convicted, sentenced to death and released after another man was identified as being the guard.

In 1999, prosecutors charged him again, accusing him of working as a Nazi guard at Sobibor and other camps. Based on that, he was deported to Germany.

This week, German authorities said they have opened a new investigation of Demjanjuk, claiming he was a guard at the Flossenburg concentration camp where 4,440 people died, the Associated Press reported.

An attorney told the AP that the complaint could lead to convictions of concentration camp guards as well as death camp guards.