A judge on Friday refused a request to limit an investigation into accusations the Justice Department knew it may have sent an innocent man to face trial as Nazi death-camp guard "Ivan the Terrible."
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman set Oct. 15-16 as opening days of a hearing into whether government lawyers withheld evidence that might have cleared John Demjanjuk and prevented his extradition to Israel.Demjanjuk, a 72-year-old retired Cleveland auto worker, was accused of being the infamous guard who operated gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp in Poland in 1942-43. More than 850,000 Jews were killed at Treblinka.
Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel in 1986, found guilty of war crimes in 1988 and sentenced to die. He contends he's a victim of mistaken identity, and his case is under appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 17 appointed Wiseman to interview three former employees of the Justice Department's Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations and a former assistant U.S. attorney in Ohio who helped prosecute Demjanjuk. Wiseman indicated Friday that other witnesses would be called, too.
Wiseman rejected a Justice Department petition to limit his inquiry to the 1986 extradition proceeding, saying, "Any allegation of any proceedings which may have influenced the outcome of this case will be explored."
Demjanjuk's supporters maintain government errors beginning as far back as Demjanjuk's arrest in 1977.
Further testimony is set for November, Wiseman said.
Demjanjuk is a Ukraine native who was a naturalized U.S. citizen for 30 years before he was arrested and accused of hiding his role as "Ivan."