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John Demjanjuk in court
Photo: AP
Judge Ralph Alt
Photo: AP
Judge orders Demjanjuk to appear in court
Since start of trial, at least 10 hearings have been cancelled due to suspected Nazi guard's health. Germany judge forces him to appear in court after he complained of dehydration last week

A German judge for the first time ordered John Demjanjuk to appear in court after the 90-year-old's health issues caused the cancellation of sessions in his trial over allegations that he was a guard at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp.

 

Two sessions last week were called off, the last of them when the defendant suffered dehydration in hot weather, but Demjanjuk appeared Thursday at the Munich state court.

 

Judge Ralph Alt said he had informed the former Ohio autoworker on Wednesday that he was being ordered to attend. He did not elaborate.

 

Demjanjuk, as he has for most of his trial, followed the hearing from a bed in the courtroom and showed no reaction to the proceedings.

 

Demjanjuk, who was deported from the US to Germany in May 2009, is being tried on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder. He denies the charges. The defense maintains Demjanjuk was a Soviet soldier captured by the Germans and spent most of the war in prison camps himself.

 

Demjanjuk suffers several medical problems and more than 10 sessions have been canceled since last November.

 

Still, court spokeswoman Margarete Noetzel said "the judge deemed him fit for trial." Demjanjuk was examined in prison and doctors gave permission for him to go to court, court doctor Albrecht Stein said.

 

German law only allows proceedings to be interrupted for up to four weeks, and prolonged absence by a defendant can result in a trial having to be restarted. But Noetzel said that a trial can be suspended for up to six weeks if a court-appointed doctor testifies that a defendant is ill.

 

Demjanjuk's lawyer, Ulrich Busch, has repeatedly called for the trial to be halted, but German doctors have declared Demjanjuk fit to face trial as long as court sessions are limited to two 90-minute sessions per day.

 

A doctor and paramedics have been on hand at every court session to monitor Demjanjuk's condition.

 

The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk had his US 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.

 

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