John Demjanjuk's trial in Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity ends with a conviction on all counts.
Born in the Ukraine as Ivan Mykolaiovych Demianiuk, he has been accused of being "Ivan the Terrible," a guard at the Treblinka death camp who was responsible for running the diesel engine which pumped gas into the gas chamber.
Originally a Soviet soldier, John Demjanjuk fought against Nazi Germany, but after being captured and becoming a POW, he joined other Soviet POWs to work for the Germans. The Israeli prosecutors argue that he began to work as a guard in concentration camps, but Demjanjuk insists that he became a member of the Russian Liberation Army which, under the command of Andrey Vlasov, fought with the Germans against the Soviet Union.
A week after this conviction John Demjanjuk will appeal the ruling and argue that there are significant problems with the prosecution's evidence.
First, there are strong reasons to think that the material provided by the Soviets has been forged. Second, exculpating testimony has not been presented by the government as it should have been. In 1993 the Israeli Supreme Court will issue a 405-page decision that overturns the conviction.
Adam Jones writes in Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction:
"Even contemporary, advanced legal systems may be unduly swayed by such sentiment. Israel, for example, mishandled the trial of John Demjanjuk, a US citizen extradited on charges of having served as a brutal guard ("Ivan the Terrible") at the Treblinka death camp.
According to Geoffrey Robertson, some Israelis "wanted so badly to convict Demjanjuk that three experienced judges ignored exculpatory evidence and presided over an outrageously unfair show trial," sentencing the prisoner to death.
Only when incontrovertible proof of mistaken identity was submitted at the appeal stage was Demjanjuk "grudgingly" cleared..."
The Supreme Court will decide that Demjanjuk almost certainly participated in the "extermination process" by serving as a concentration camp guard, but that the government failed to demonstrate he was a particular concentration camp guard who committed particular crimes. They will have too much concern that the prosecution argument has ultimately been based on a case of mistaken identity. Merely being present while war crimes are being committed and merely playing some sort of unknown role in war crimes is not deemed sufficient for a conviction and execution in the Israeli justice system.
The Israeli government will decide not to file new war crimes charges against John Demjanjuk, in part because he probably wouldn't be found guilty and in part because they had only obtained an extradition from the United States to try him on specific charges which end up being dismissed. They don't have carte blanche to try him on whatever charges they can come up with.