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InfoBeat News - Morning Coffee Edition - 2001/05/31
Thursday, May 31, 2001

Witness: Demjanjuk documents real

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN
Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - A witness testified Wednesday that documents the government is using in its second attempt to prove a retired autoworker was a Nazi death camp guard appear to be authentic.

The Justice Department is seeking to strip Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk, 81, of his U.S. citizenship. Prosecutors say documents including a Nazi-issued identification card prove Demjanjuk was a guard.

Demjanjuk, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1958 and changed his name from Ivan to John, lost his citizenship in 1981 when a judge determined that he was the murderous Ivan the Terrible, a guard at the Treblinka Nazi camp.

Demjanjuk eventually was convicted in Israel of crimes against humanity and awaited a death sentence, but Israel's Supreme Court acquitted him in 1993 after concluding that Ivan the Terrible was likely someone else. Demjanjuk's U.S. citizenship was restored in 1998.

In the new trial, prosecutors are alleging Demjanjuk was a guard at Nazi camps other than Treblinka. Demjanjuk has denied helping the Nazis persecute European Jews.

He has not attended the trial that began Tuesday before U.S. District Court Judge Paul R. Matia, who is hearing the case without a jury.

Secret Service laboratory director Larry Stewart testified Wednesday that the documents allegedly placing Demjanjuk at Nazi camps are on paper that could date to the 1940s. He added that there was no evidence of attempts to alter the papers with coffee, tea or chemicals to make them appear old.

"I tested for that," Stewart said.

He also testified that watermarks and ink on documents he reviewed in Washington, Moscow and Berlin were consistent with other World War II-era documents.

Smith said typewriters available in Europe in the 1940s were used on the documents, which he studied for type spacing and design.

Demjanjuk's attorneys argue that the papers _ whether or not they are authentic _ refer to someone other than their client. They say the height and dental work listed on the documents do not match Demjanjuk's, and that another Ukrainian, possibly a cousin named Ivan Demjanjuk, could have been the Nazi guard.

Prosecutors have belittled the mistaken identity argument.

Justice Department attorney Edward Stutman said evidence would focus on references in the documents to a man with Demjanjuk's birth date, birthplace and physical description, including a scar.

Defense attorney Michael Tigar would not say if his client would attend the trial, which is expected to last three weeks.