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Yoram Sheftel, The Demjanjuk Affair. The Rise and Fall of a Show-Trial. Victor Gollancz, London, 1994, pp. xv, 379, translated from the Hebrew by Haim Watzman. 20 British Pounds.

Extradition law and practice has been the subject of many recent publications. This book focuses on the concrete case of a retired auto worker from Cleveland, John Demjanjuk, who was born 1920 near Vinitsa in the Ukraine, and who immigrated to the United States in 1952, becoming an American citizen in 1957.

This book describes relevant procedural and legal issues relating to his extradition by the United States to Israel in 1986, his trial for murder before the Jerusalem District Court-- the first televised trial in Israel's history-- his conviction on 18 April 1988, death sentence, appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court, acquittal on 29 July 1993, and deportation to the United States on 22 September 1993, but only after repeated stays and other procedural manoeuvres by the prosecution aimed at testing whether he could be kept in Israel and tried for any other offence, although Article 13 of the extradition treaty between Israel and the United States expressly provides that 'a person extradited under the present convention shall not be detained, tried or punished in the territory of the requesting party for any offence other than that for which the extradition has been granted" (p. 369). Demjanjuk returned to the United States a free man, but he has not regained U.S. citizenship, of which he was stripped in 1981, nor has he received any compensation on account of the manifest miscarriage of justice in his case.

As the second war crimes trial held in Israel for Nazi crimes against humanity, the Demjanjuk trial could have created precedent. Instead, as the author shows, both the lower court and appeal proceedings were seriously flawed. So too was the mutual cooperation of Israeli, Soviet and U.S. police authorities involved in the investigations of the case. The first Israeli war crimes trial was, of course, that of Adolf Eichmann, who, we remember, had not been the object of a proper extradition proceeding, but had been kidnapped by the Mossad in Argentina and brought to Israel in 1960, where he was tried, convicted, and executed in 1962.

The author of this disturbing book is Yoram Sheftel, the Tel Aviv star criminal lawyer who defended Demjanjuk in the lower court and then before the Supreme Court of Israel and obtained his acquittal by proving that Ivan Marchenko, not Demjanjuk, was the notorious Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. The book reads like a Perry Mason story, replete with lucid procedural explanations, document examinations by expert witnesses, devastating cross examinations, revealing testimonies (like that of Professor Willem Wagenaar of Leiden University, who completely discredited the purported identification based on the OSI photo spreads, pp. 158-166), and fascinating vignettes about the various players in this drama -- the witnesses, the experts, the judges, the prosecutors, U.S. Congressman Traficant, and, of course, John Demjanjuk himself, his son Johnny and his son-in-law Ed Nishnic. Particularly tragic was the fate of Judge Dov Eitan, who was to act as defence counsel for Demjanjuk in the appeal proceedings. On 28 November 1988, days before the scheduled start of the appeal, Judge Eitan fell to his death from the 20th floor of the Jerusalem Tower. Two days later, at Eitan's funeral, a fanatic threw acid into Yoram Sheftel's eyes, who had to be hospitalized and undergo two eye operations to recover his sight (pp. 243-263).

Sheftel's book raises many important and troubling questions about international criminal law, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the administration of criminal justice in the United States and Israel, the impunity of state officials for committing "fraud on the court", and fundamental human rights standards.

Pursuant to the 1979 Holtzmann Amendment to the United Sates Immigratiton and Naturalization Act, the Office of Special Investigations was established within the United States Department of Justice in order to expose, denaturalize, extradite or deport all the Nazi collaborators who had emigrated to the United States at the end of the war. John Demjanjuk became one of the first targets of the OSI. On the basis of questionable information received from the Soviet Union, the OSI moved to have Demjanjuk stripped of his US citizenship in 1981 and proferred as evidence an identification card purporting to show John Demjanjuk at the Nazi Travniki camp in 1942; after being shown to the judge, this document was transferred to the Soviet Embassy in Washington. The prosecution was able to examine it there, but it was swiftly returned to the Soviet Union before the defence could see it (p. xiii). The document was later shown to be a forgery (pp. 166-76). On 28 February 1986 Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel to face murder charges as the infamous Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka concentration camp. In this context it is worth noting that it was not the Israeli Government that initially sought Demjanjuk but rather the OSI prosecutors who effectively organized an expulsion in the guise of extradition.

Sheftel reveals serious errors and deliberate fabrications perpetrated by OSI lawyers in their prosecution of the Demjanjuk case. Unbelievable as this may sound, the OSI habitually threw unshreaded documents into the garbage cans of the McDonald's restaurant opposite their seat on K Street in Washington, D.C. Since 1985 and for two years thereafter Ukrainian-Americans removed and carefully monitored the contents of the plastic bags full of OSI documents. Hundreds of documents came from Demjanjuk's file in all its stages between the years 1976 and 1986. "Among the 'garbage-can documents' were two which proved that OSI officials had actually forged Otto Horn's identification of Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible. . . During the trial, the prosecution had told the court it did not have the memorandum written during the identification procedure conducted by the OSI with Otto Horn in Berlin on 13 November 1979. Instead of this, three affidavits, all from 1986, were submitted. The affidavits ... were signed by two OSI agents ... and described the photo-spread procedure conducted with Horn seven years previously, during which he had allegedly identified Demjanjuk's 1951 phtograph and the Travniki photograph as pictures of Ivan the Terrible. The first of the two documents was a detailed memorandum dated 15 November 1979. I saw immediately why it had been thrown into the garbage, why it had for ten years been 'non-existent', and why three false statements had been composed instead of it seven years later. . . Garand's memo indicated clearly that when the 1951 photograph and the Travniki photograph were shown to Otto Horn, he had not identified either of them as pictures of Ivan the Terrible. Furthermore, he had not even pointed to either of them as photogrpahs of someone he knew. Horn had actually selected two other pictures among those presented to him as people he might have known during his time in the SS. Only after receiving a broad, blatant hint from the OSI men did Horn finally choose the pictures he had been summoned to choose. The second document was even more remarkable. It was an internal memo written by Michael Wolf, Deputy Director of the OSI. It was undated, but referred to a meeting held on 2 July 1986 at the American Embassy in Beirut between Wolf, OSI Director Neil Sher and Benard Dougherty. Wolf writes that Dougherty had confessed to him that when he signed his affidavit in May 1986 he had no recollection of the photo spread conducted with Horn in November 1979. Dougherty claimed he had signed the affidavit at the request of attorney Gavriel Finder, one of the many members of the Israeli prosecution team ... In other words, the three affidavits that Dougherty and Garand had sworn were true in 1986 were actually fabrications, meant to create a false picture of Demjanjuk's identification as Ivan the Terrible by Otto Horn." (pp. 274-76).


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