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Accused Nazi guard's bid to halt trial rejected

U.S. citizen John "Ivan" Demjanjuk enters the Justice Palace in Munich on Wednesday, April 13, 2011, where he is on trial indicted for accessory to murder as a former guard of the World War II German death camp Sobibor.
Sebastian Widmann/AP Photo

MUNICH - A German court on Thursday rejected a defense request to suspend John Demjanjuk's trial over a declassified FBI report that cast doubt on the authenticity of a key piece of evidence.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that a 1985 FBI file indicated the agency believed a Nazi ID card that was used as evidence in the Munich trial and purportedly showed that Demjanjuk served as a death camp guard was a Soviet-made fake.

AP's story "does not offer any grounds for a suspension," Judge Ralph Alt said. "The report does not bring forth any concrete aspects that have not already been analyzed as part of the examination of evidence."

Ulrich Busch, a defense attorney for 90-year-old, Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, had sought to postpone proceedings so he could travel to the United States to examine the new material. Bush has repeatedly tried to have the trial suspended or otherwise delayed since it opened in Nov. 2009. A verdict is expected next month.

Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker, is accused of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he served as a guard at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp. He rejects the charges.

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Closing arguments by the co-plaintiffs, who are allowed under German law, continued Thursday. Manuel Bloch, an attorney from the Netherlands who lost family members in the Holocaust, urged the court to convict Demjanjuk and sentence him to the maximum 15-year prison term.

"The evidence in the case against Mr. Demjanjuk is abundant and fits like the pieces of a puzzle," Bloch said.

"When all the pieces of this puzzle are put together the picture that emerges ... is crystal clear: Mr. Demjanjuk worked ... in destruction camp Sobibor, and should therefore be convicted for being an accessory to murder," Bloch said.

Several others of the roughly 40 co-plaintiffs also urged the court to convict Demjanjuk, who followed the proceedings from behind dark sunglasses, lying in a bed in the courtroom.