CINCINNATI (AP) – A former autoworker from Cleveland who is accused of being a Nazi death camp guard lost another battle Wednesday in his 30-year fight to maintain his U.S. citizenship and residence.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected John Demjanjuk's challenge to a final deportation order of the nation's chief immigration judge. The order would send Demjanjuk to Germany, Poland or his native Ukraine.
The government initially claimed Demjanjuk was the notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka camp known as "Ivan the Terrible." Officials later concluded that he was not, but a judge ruled in 2002 that documents from World War II prove Demjanjuk was a Nazi guard at various death or forced labor camps.
Demjanjuk's attorney, John Broadley, said he had no comment on the ruling by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal and would not be able to respond until he reviews it. He would not speculate on what legal options remain.
Justice Department attorney Eli Rosenbaum did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.
Demjanjuk, who has steadfastly denied that he ever helped the Nazis, was told of the panel's decision, said Ed Nishnic, his former son-in-law.
"He's been made aware if it," said Nishnic, who is divorced from Demjanjuk's daughter but remains involved in his defense and acts as a family spokesman. "He's basically used to decisions that don't go in our favor, and he's pretty much oblivious to the details. We'd like him to have peace in his life as much as possible."
Demjanjuk, 87, is generally in poor health, Nishnic said. Demjanjuk lives in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills. He contends that he served in the Soviet Army, was captured by Germany in 1942 and became a prisoner of war.
In his latest attempt to avoid deportation for Demjanjuk, Broadley argued that Michael J. Creppy, the chief immigration judge who made the 2005 deportation order, was purely an administrative official and not entitled to act as an immigration judge.
The appeals court panel rejected that argument and refused to review Creppy's ruling, which was upheld by the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2006.
"Demjanjuk essentially asks this court to ignore the plain meaning of the words 'Immigration Judge' because Creppy's title also included the word 'Chief,'" the court said. "The word 'Chief' does not somehow alter the fundamental meaning of the words 'Immigration Judge' to make this position entirely managerial, as Demjanjuk claims it to be."
The decision is the latest in a long legal fight. The Justice Department first brought charges in 1977 seeking to revoke Demjanjuk's citizenship and to deport him for falsifying information on his applications when entering the U.S. in 1952 and to become a citizen in 1958.
His U.S. citizenship was revoked in 1981, restored in 1998 and revoked again in 2002. He was extradited to Israel in 1986 and was under a death sentence, until Israel's Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that he was not the same man as Ivan.
The current deportation case is based on evidence uncovered by the Justice Department that Demjanjuk was a different guard. That evidence led courts to again strip Demjanjuk of his citizenship on the basis of the original falsified information.
Broadley had argued in briefs filed in July 2007 that Demjanjuk likely would be tortured in Ukraine if sent back there because the U.S. government never sufficiently disavowed its previous claim that Demjanjuk was Ivan. The government contends there is no basis for the argument that Demjanjuk would be tortured.
Associated Press writer M.R. Kropko in Cleveland contributed to this report.