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Demjanjuk faces 27,900 charges

RETIRED auto worker John Demjanjuk was formally charged with 27,900 counts of acting as an accessory to murder yesterday - one for every person who died at the Nazi death camp where he is accused of serving as a guard.

The charges by prosecutors in Munich are one of the final steps before an expected autumn trial for the 89-year-old, who has been fighting a variety of Nazi-era charges since 1977.

Demjanjuk and his family have argued that he is in poor health. Photos taken in April showed him wincing in pain as immigration agents removed him from his home in Seven Hills, Ohio, where he had been living since 1993. German doctors cleared the way for formal charges this month when they declared that Demjanjuk was fit to stand trial so long as court hearings do not exceed two 90-minute sessions per day.

The Munich state court must now decide whether to accept the charges - usually a formality - and set a date for the trial. Court spokeswoman Margarete Noetzel said it was unlikely to start until the autumn.

The defendant's son, John Demjanjuk Jr, described the charges as "a farce," saying that "as long as my father remains alive, we will defend his innocence as he has never hurt anyone anywhere."

Demjanjuk, a native of Ukraine, says he was a Red Army soldier who spent the war as a prisoner of war and never hurt anyone.

But prosecutors accuse him of serving as a guard at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943. Nazi-era documents obtained by United States authorities and given to German prosecutors include a photo ID identifying Demjanjuk as a guard and saying he was trained at an SS facility for Nazi guards at Trawniki, Poland. US and German experts have declared the ID genuine.


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