Image: John Demjanjuk
Mark Duncan  /  AP
John Demjanjuk, shown in 2005, has argued his deportation to Germany would amount to torture, given his frail health.
updated 4/3/2009 7:33:47 PM ET 2009-04-03T23:33:47

John Demjanjuk, accused of being a Nazi death camp guard, marked his 89th birthday Friday by winning a reprieve of his ordered deportation to Germany to face possible trial.

An immigration judge in Arlington, Va., issued the stay of a deportation expected during the weekend, said his son, John Demjanjuk Jr.

Immigration Judge Wayne Iskra on Friday ordered that Demjanjuk's deportation be put on hold until the court can rule on his request to reopen the U.S. case that ordered his removal.

Authorities in Germany said Demjanjuk had been expected there by Monday.

Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker who lives in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills, kept out of sight Friday, as he has for years. He has argued that his deportation would amount to torture, given his frail health.

29,000 count: Accessory to murder
A German arrest warrant issued in March accuses the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk of 29,000 counts of acting as an accessory to murder at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland during World War II.

In Germany, Demjanjuk would have a chance to respond to the allegations before a judge. He denies involvement in any deaths.

In a three-page signed statement, Demjanjuk asked earlier in the week for asylum in the U.S. and said deporting him "will expose me to severe physical and mental pain that clearly amount to torture under any reasonable definition of the term."

"I am physically very weak and experience severe spinal, hip and leg pain, which limits mobility and causes me to require assistance to stand up and move about," the statement said. "Spending 8 to 12 hours in an airplane seat flying to Germany would be unbearably painful for me."

In the statement, Demjanjuk said he suffers from a bone marrow disorder, kidney disease, anemia, kidney stones, arthritis, gout and spinal deterioration.

His attorney, John Broadley, said a government physician examined Demjanjuk on Thursday to determine his ability to travel and there was "dramatic evidence" of his back pain. Broadley submitted a portion of the exam videotape to the government on Friday as part of his argument against deportation.

Germany's motives
In his statement seeking asylum, Demjanjuk questioned Germany's motive in seeking his deportation and suggested the German government was trying to make up for lax earlier pursuit of war criminals.

"It is possible that the German authorities see a prosecution of me as means to draw attention away from their past approach," the statement said.

A German Justice Ministry spokeswoman, Eva Schmierer, declined to comment on Demjanjuk's statement.

A court-appointed defense lawyer in Germany, Guenther Maull, said he would seek an examination of whether Demjanjuk is fit to be held in custody and stand trial. He said he does not expect a trial to begin before this summer.

Maull said there were 120 guards at Sobibor and it was unclear which of them did what. As a result, he argued, it is unclear whether formal charges would be brought to court.

Citizenship revoked twice
Demjanjuk came to the United States after the war as a displaced person and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. His citizenship was revoked twice, first in 1981.

Demjanjuk was extradited in 1986 to Israel, where he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death in 1988. In 1993, the Israeli Supreme Court determined he was not the notorious Nazi death camp guard Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka in Poland, and he was allowed to return home.

Demjanjuk's U.S. citizenship was restored in 1998 and revoked again in 2002. The U.S. Department of Justice renewed its case, saying he had indeed been a Nazi guard and could be deported for falsifying information on his U.S. immigration paperwork.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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