German judge convicts, frees ailing Nazi extermination camp guard

May 13th, 2011 - 7:10 am ICT by IANS  

Berlin, May 13 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Ukraine-born Ivan (John) Demjanjuk, who was found guilty of helping to kill at least 27,900 Jews at a Nazi extermination camp and convicted to five years in prison, will be released from custody because of his declining years, the German N-24 TV channel reported Thursday.

“The accused is to be released,” Judge Ralph Alt told the Munich court Thursday after passing a guilty verdict and sentencing Demjanjuk, 91, to jail.

The Munich trial began in November 2009 and has attracted worldwide media attention.

Demjanjuk attended the 18-month court proceedings in a wheelchair and sometimes lying down, with his family trying to argue that he was too infirm to stand trial.

Demjanjuk was drafted into the Soviet army in 1940 and was serving in eastern Crimea in 1942 when he was captured by the Germans. Then he worked as a guard at the Sobibor concentration camp in occupied Poland.

According to German prosecutors, Demjanjuk was involved in the murders of at least 27,900 Jews at the death camp between March and September 1943.

The verdict against Demjanjuk was welcomed in Russia and Ukraine.

Leonid Slutsky, first deputy chairman of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee hailed the guilty verdict. “The Fascist toady suffered a just punishment,” he said, praising the German court for following in the spirit of the Nuremburg Trials with its “impartial approach” in Demjanjuk’s case.

The Russian Jewish Congress, however, called the verdict too mild. “The amazing thing about this verdict is that the short jail term given to Demajanjuk,” spokesman Mikhail Savin said.

In Ukraine, experts agreed with the judge’s decision to release Demjanjuk from custody.

“Proceeding from humanitarian positions, five years for a person at such age is a quite severe punishment,” said Mikhail Pogrebinsky, head of Kiev Centre of Political Research and Conflictology.

“For such [an old] man five years in jail are equal to life sentence,” said Vladimir Kornilov, head of the Ukrainian branch of CIS Countries Institute.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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