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World Briefing / Germany

Demjanjuk is charged

July 14, 2009|Times Wire Reports

The legal saga of John Demjanjuk neared its final chapter as prosecutors set the stage for one of Germany's highest-profile war crime trials in years -- formally charging the retired U.S. autoworker with involvement in the murder of 27,900 people at a Nazi death camp.

The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was once sentenced in Israel to death, then acquitted by the country's Supreme Court in 1993 of being the notorious "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp. Now the 89-year-old stands accused of being part of the death machine at another camp in Poland -- Sobibor -- and a Germany more than 60 years removed from World War II will revisit the demons of its past once again.

For Germany, the decision to try Demjanjuk was swift: Formal charges related to his alleged time as a Sobibor guard in 1943 were filed just two months after he landed in the country, after a lengthy but fruitless court battle to avoid deportation from the U.S. Filing charges typically takes several months in Germany. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

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