updated 10/18/2006 9:58:36 AM ET 2006-10-18T13:58:36

Federal authorities freed a former Nazi concentration camp guard after failing to find a country willing to take the 81-year-old man, who had been stripped of his U.S. citizenship.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in January upheld a decision to revoke Johann Leprich’s citizenship.

In September, Leprich’s lawyer asked a federal judge to order his client released, citing a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring the freeing of those still held for deportation six months after a removal order.

The Justice Department said it released Leprich on Monday because Romania, Hungary and Germany refused to accept him, despite high-level meetings with officials from those countries, the Detroit Free Press reported in its Wednesday editions.

“What country is going to accept an 81-year-old man who is in declining health?” said Leprich’s attorney, Joseph McGinness.

Leprich was released to his wife and son, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Greg Palmore said. He said Leprich must report weekly to ICE and the agency will continue to seek his deportation.

Granted U.S. citizenship in 1958
Leprich, an ethnic German born in Romania, joined the Nazi military organization Waffen SS in 1943 and served as a guard at Mauthausen concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Austria, court records say. About 119,000 people were killed at Mauthausen, including political prisoners, Jews, and Soviet, Dutch and Czech prisoners of war.

He immigrated to the United States after World War II and became a U.S. citizen in 1958. But he fled to Canada in 1987, shortly before a federal judge moved to revoke his citizenship for hiding his Nazi party membership.

Leprich was arrested in 2003 when authorities found him hiding behind a panel under the basement stairs at his family’s home about 20 miles northeast of Detroit.

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