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Expert in Demjanjuk Trial Accused of False Testimony

May 11, 1987|Associated Press

JERUSALEM — A defense lawyer in John Demjanjuk's war crimes trial today accused an American documents expert of giving fraudulent testimony about an SS identity card purportedly issued to the defendant.

In a stormy courtroom session, Presiding Judge Dov Levine cut off lawyer Mark O'Connor's cross-examination and shouted at him to sit down.

"We protest vehemently. This is not proper procedure. This is not the way to talk to a witness," Levine said.

O'Connor made the accusation while questioning Gideon Epstein, a documents expert from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. He did not elaborate.

Epstein was the sixth expert witness to testify that the Nazi identity card was genuine.

Soviet Forgery Claimed

The prosecution says the card was issued to Demjanjuk at the Trawniki camp in German-occupied Poland where the Nazis trained death camp guards. The defense claims that it was forged by the Soviet Union, which supplied it to Israel.

"Am I to understand this fraud cannot be brought out and I must sit down?" O'Connor asked the three-judge panel.

"You act as though the court were trying to prevent you from proving there was a forgery," said Levine. "Isn't that what the (defense) has been doing for hours on end? . . . But with this witness you have concluded."

The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, 67, a retired Ohio auto worker, is charged with being "Ivan the Terrible," a guard who tortured victims before operating the gas chambers at Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. An estimated 850,000 Jews perished at Treblinka in 1942-43.

Demjanjuk faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

He claims that he is a victim of mistaken identity. He says he was never at Trawniki or Treblinka, but was held in Nazi prisoner-of-war camps after being captured while serving in the Soviet Red Army.

Certified Copy Barred

O'Connor was kept from entering into evidence a certified copy of the Trawniki card provided by the Soviets to the U.S. District Court in Cleveland, which stripped Demjanjuk of his citizenship in 1981.

During a court recess, O'Connor told reporters that he had planned to ask Epstein about differences between the certified copy, which the witness examined in 1981, and the purported original, which Israel obtained through the intervention of U.S. oil magnate Armand Hammer.

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