03 May 2011
The main lawyer for Ivan [John] Demajanjuk, the 91-year-old who is standing trial in Munich for allegedly being an accessory to the murder of at least 27,900 people, has demanded his client's acquittal, telling the court the case was unproved. Lawyer Ulrich Busch was beginning a summation of the defense case which is expected to take at least three days, before judges retire to consider their verdict in what may turn out to be the world's last major trial for crimes in the Holocaust. "What I am seeking is obvious: acquittal for the accused, release from detention and compensation for the detention," Busch told reporters before the day's hearing opened.
Busch said that German, Israeli and Polish prosecutors had previously investigated allegations that Demjanjuk was a guard at Sobibor death camp and come to the conclusion that it was impossible to win a conviction. He argued this was still the case. A verdict in the trial – which opened in November 2009 – is expected next week. The case has made legal history, because there was no eyewitness evidence that Demjanjuk killed any individual. He was charged with being an accessory to murder rather than with more serious charges.
Prosecutors, who have demanded six years' jail for Demjamjuk, said it was sufficient to prove that Demjanjuk accepted employment as an SS auxiliary, serving from March until September 1943 at the camp. They argued that everyone working there knew that Jews were being taken to the site and murdered in gas chambers as this was Sobibor's sole purpose.
A succession of relatives of Holocaust victims have asked the judges to show no leniency. However, Demjanjuk’s attorney has insisted that the evidence presented by the prosecution does not prove that his client, a former Red Army soldier, committed any crimes after his capture by the Germans.
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