Seattle Times | 29Jun2010 |Andrea Jarach, David Rising (AP)

Demjanjuk trial in Munich postponed due to health

MUNICH -- John Demjanjuk's son accused a German court Tuesday of pushing ahead with a trial on allegations that his father served as a Nazi death camp guard despite what he said were indications the 90-year-old's health is deteriorating.

Tuesday's court session was canceled after Demjanjuk, a former Ohio autoworker deported from the U.S. to Germany in May 2009 to stand trial, was hospitalized with dangerously low blood hemoglobin levels.

Demjanjuk suffers from a number of ailments and sessions have been canceled at least eight times since the trial began Nov. 30, 2009 -- usually for issues with his hemoglobin levels.

Presiding Judge Ralph Alt said the Munich university clinic where Demjanjuk was being treated reported that the defendant's hemoglobin level registered 7.7. Doctors during the trial have testified normal levels are about 14 to 18.

Alt said in a short statement in the courtroom that Demjanjuk was given a blood transfusion, and that the trial should be able to resume with him present on Wednesday.

But Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., told the AP in an e-mail that his father's bone marrow disease needed advanced medical treatment, including chemotherapy.

"Instead, they are making him appear artificially fit for trial by treating him with various medications and then afterward testing his blood hoping it will be good enough to go to court," Demjanjuk said.

"For the Germans he would be better dead than alive, so the trial could end without an acquittal."

Prosecutors could not be immediately reached for comment.

Demjanjuk had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 1981 after the Justice Department alleged he hid his past as the notorious Treblinka guard "Ivan the Terrible." He was extradited to Israel, where he was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1988, only to have the conviction overturned five years later as a case of mistaken identity.

He is now standing trial on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder over allegations he was a guard at Sobibor -- another death camp in Nazi occupied Poland.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk's defense team has rejected the charges, arguing he is again the victim of mistaken identity. The defense maintains Demjanjuk was a Soviet soldier captured by the Germans and spent most of the war in prison camps himself.

After his deportation, German doctors declared Demjanjuk fit to face trial as long as court sessions are limited to two 90-minute sessions per day. They have also scheduled a maximum of three sessions per week, and a doctor and paramedics have been on hand at every court session to monitor his condition.

He has spent most of the trial lying in a bed in the courtroom, either with sunglasses on or a cap pulled down over his eyes, and has shown no signs of reacting to testimony. Still, at breaks he has been able to talk with his interpreter and attorneys, and has occasionally answered questions from the judges.

Three sessions in a row were canceled last month over problems with Demjanjuk's blood hemoglobin levels, but there were no medical issues during sessions earlier this month.  (5 paragraphs)  (2 paragraphs)