A judge has ordered former U.S. government officials to answer allegations that they sent an innocent man to Israel, where he was sentenced to death as the Nazi death-camp guard "Ivan the Terrible."
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman on Friday set Oct. 15-16 as opening days of a hearing into whether government lawyers withheld evidence that might have cleared John Demjanjuk.
Wiseman rejected a Justice Department petition to limit his inquiry to the 1986 extradition proceeding, saying: "Any allegation of any proceedings which may have influenced the outcome of this case will be explored."
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 17 appointed Wiseman to interview three ex-employees of the Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations and a former assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute Demjanjuk.
Demjanjuk, a 72-year-old retired Cleveland auto worker, was convicted in Israel of war crimes in 1988 and sentenced to death. He has appealed his conviction, insisting that he is not Ivan the Terrible.
That was the nickname given by Jewish survivors to a Nazi guard who operated gas chamber engines at Treblinka in Poland in 1942 and 1943. About 850,000 Jews died there.
Demjanjuk's supporters maintain that government errors began as far back as 1977, when he was arrested and accused of hiding his role as Ivan.
His lawyers say the Justice Department knew since 1979 that six former Ukrainian concentration camp guards told Soviet interrogators in 1944 and 1945 that a guard named Ivan Marchenko was really Ivan the Terrible.
Demjanjuk has acknowledged that he was a guard, but said he was forced into service by German troops when he fled Ukraine during the war. He has denied any involvement in the deaths of Jewish prisoners.
He was stripped of his citizenship through denaturalization proceedings and was ordered deported in 1986.