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Published:April 15th, 2009 12:11 EST
John Demjanjuk of Seven Hills

Alleged Nazi War Criminal Is Released from Federal Custody

By Christopher HIllenbrand

John Demjanjuk of Seven Hills, Ohio, was released into the care of family members after he was taken from his home in a wheelchair by six immigration officers earlier on Tuesday. U.S. Immigration officials escorted the man to a federal building in downtown Cleveland, to face the deportation motion against him but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judicial panel overseeing the matter put a stop to his extradition back to Germany. Demjanjuk is accused of being a notorious Nazi guard at a concentration camp in Poland during World War II, who was complicit in the deaths of over 29,000 deaths.

The arrest warrant issued by a Munich tribunal states that Demjanjuk was an accessory to the murders of 29,000 Jews, Christians, and minority groups while he was guard at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The three-judge panel presiding over the 89-year-old`s hearing, granted the man a stay of deportation after reconsidering Demjanjuk`s appeal to reopen the U.S.` case that led to his extradition on the grounds that his weakened state of health would make the trip to Germany tortuous.

By halting the motion to deport John Demjanjuk, the judicial panel violated jurisdiction laws that, as the U.S. government contends, don`t authorize the Court of Appeals to make such a decision.

Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney maintains that the government will pursue overturning the court-ordered cessation.

Before he was released, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made Demjanjuk wear an electronic monitoring device to ensure he doesn`t try to elude authorities in the future.

The man`s former son-in-law and the spokesman for the family, Ed Nishnic, said that relatives drove him back to his home in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills.

Just before he met his former father-in-law to take him home after the stay was ordered, Nishnic said: "We`re delighted. We`re prepared tomake our arguments with the 6th Circuit, and it`s just a shame that Mr. Demjanjuk had to go through the hell that he went through once again this morning."

The spokesman also spoke about how his family was relieved Demjanjuk`s appeal provoked the court to reconsider his extradition.

At the time of his arrest, Demjanjuk`s wife, Vera, stood by, crying, and watched as immigration officials hoisted his wheelchair into the back of a van in front of the Demjanjuk residence.

Demjanjuk waved goodbye to the family members present at his arrest, and told them "I love you" in his native tongue of Ukrainian.

Relatives said that the 89-year-old yelped from the pain as he was assisted into the wheelchair.

His 20-year-old granddaughter Olivia Nishnic said: "It was horrendous. He was in such pain. I wouldn`t want to see anyone go through something like that."

The government didn`t listen to how his father should be arrested in his tender state, John Demjanjuk Jr. said on Tuesday. Demjanjuk Jr. filed the petition to appeal his father`s extradition early Tuesday morning.

In a phone message to sources in The Associated Press, he said: "They told me that they would have an ambulance. They told me we would have three to five days` notice, and obviously you can`t believe everything the government tells you."

Demjanjuk Jr. seemed emphatic over the fact that his father wouldn`t live to see trial in Germany: "If he is deported, if this madness and inhumane action is not stopped by the 6th Circuit, he will live out his life in a (German) hospital. He will never be put on trial. It makes absolutely no sense that the Germans, after nearly killing him in combat, would try to kill him once again."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, founded in Los Angeles as an organization devoted to tracking down Nazi war criminals, claimed that despite the setback, they remain firm in their goal.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Center, said: "We remain confident that John Demjanjuk will be deported and finally face the bar of justice for the unspeakablecrimes he committed during World War II when he was a guard at the Sobibor death camp. His work at the Sobibor death camp was to push men, women and children into the gas chamber. He had no mercy, no pity and no remorse for the families whose lives he was destroying forever."

Germany`s involvement in the deportation comes as another declaration from the country saying that they will prosecute and punish those that committed atrocities during World War II to restore their reputation in the public eye.

Born in Ukraine, Demjanjuk claimed to have been a prisoner of war in WWII, before coming to America as a refugee. He adamantly denies that he was a Nazi death camp guard to this day.

After being cleared of charges, citing he was the infamous Nazi prison guard "Ivan the Terrible" at the Trelinka concentration camp, Demjanjuk was then convicted in 1988 of war crimes and war crimes against humanity by an Israeli court. The conviction was later overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.

Demjanjuk has been living in the country illegally since 2002 when a U.S. court revoked his citizenship after evidence revealed that he did serve at Sobibor and other Nazi prisoner camps.

In 2005, a U.S. Immigration Court ordered that Demjanjuk could be deported to Germany, Poland, or his native Ukraine to  war crime charges.