Poland Studies Request To Seek Extradition Of Demjanjuk

By ANDRZEJ STYLINSKI, Associated Press Writer

WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Poland is reviewing a request from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to seek the extradition of John Demjanjuk, an alleged guard at Nazi death camps, from the United States to face war crimes charges, an official said Monday.

Leon Kieres, head of Poland's National Remembrance Institute, said his office is investigating whether it could "put forward charges against Demjanjuk" as a basis for seeking extradition.

Kieres, whose institute is empowered to investigate Nazi- and communist-era crimes, said the review could take several months.

He said he was acting in part on a request from Efraim Zuroff, director and chief Nazi hunter of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles.

A message seeking comment was left with Ed Nishnic, Demjanjuk's son-in-law and family spokesman.

Demjanjuk, 82, a Ukrainian refugee, lost his U.S. citizenship in 1981 and was extradited to Israel in 1986, accused of being the infamous guard known as "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 1993, however, that Demjanjuk (pictured, above) was not "Ivan the Terrible." He returned to Seven Hills, Ohio, and in 1998 his citizenship was reinstated.

He was stripped of his citizenship again in February after the Justice Department renewed the case, arguing that he had been a guard at other death camps. He eventually could be deported.

Demjanjuk, a retired auto worker, has maintained he was a prisoner of war.

In a statement released over the weekend by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Zuroff argued that there was a strong case for Poland to try Demjanjuk on war crimes charges.

"We therefore are urging the Polish authorities to initiate an investigation of this case as quickly as possible with a view toward Demjanjuk's extradition," the statement said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)