Expert witness in Demjanjuk case testifies incriminating documents appear genuine

By Andrea M. Jarach, AP
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Demjanjuk expert: documents appear genuine

MUNICH — A former U.S. Secret Service forensics expert testified Tuesday that documents being used by the prosecution against accused Nazi guard John Demjanjuk appear genuine.

Larry Stewart, who analyzed 22 documents being used in the case in 2000 by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations, told the Munich state court that he found no evidence they had manipulated.

Stewart testified over the objections of Demjanjuk’s defense team, who had argued that he should not be used as an expert witness because of his association with the OSI, which investigated Demjanjuk in the United States.

Attorney Ulrich Busch had also argued Stewart’s qualifications as an expert were tainted because he had been charged in the U.S. for perjury — though acquitted by a jury.

Demjanjuk, who turned 90 in April, has been standing trial since November on 27,900 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he was a guard at the Nazi’s Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.

The counts of accessory to murder are based on transport lists of people taken to Sobibor at the time Demjanjuk was allegedly there. The official number was raised to 28,060 on Tuesday after the court agreed to a co-plaintiff’s motion to admit another transport list that hadn’t previously been considered.

That does not affect the possible 15 years in prison the Ukrainian-born retired Ohio auto worker faces if convicted.

Though Demjanjuk denies ever serving as a camp guard, the prosecution has presented a Nazi-issued identity card as evidence that they say has Demjanjuk’s picture on it and indicates he was a guard at Sobibor.

Demjanjuk’s defense team maintains the card, which was originally in Russian hands, is a fake made by the KGB.

But Stewart testified he had examined the ID card and 21 other documents being used as evidence in detail to test if the paper was from the time of the war and if the documents had been recently altered.

He said there was “no indication of an induced aging of the documents” and that the fibers of the paper showed no signs of being broken as they would have if the paper had been put into a typewriter while already old.

He also said stamps on the papers were consistent with those used on other documents from the period that he had as comparisons.

“These documents appear to be original,” he testified.

In April, a German expert, Anton Dallmayer of the Bavarian Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified that the ID card appeared to be genuine.

But Busch said the indication that the papers were similar to others could mean something else.

“That could lead to the conclusion they were all produced by the same forger — all are from the KGB,” he said.

Stewart said that his computer analysis of the photograph on the ID card showed that circular stamps that overlap the photo and the card do not perfectly match up.

But, he said, if the photograph was to be moved slightly the stamps would match up perfectly, leading him to the conclusion that the photo had slipped slightly over time. Stewart said he analyzed the glue on comparison ID cards and found it to be of a poor quality.

The court session came after three consecutive dates were called off at the end of May when Demjanjuk was hospitalized complaining of chest pains. He was treated for dangerously low blood hemoglobin levels but the court doctor said Tuesday that he had not had a heart attack and remains healthy enough for the trial to continue.

Demjanjuk, who was deported from the U.S. last year to Germany, suffers from several medical problems but has been declared fit to face trial as long as court sessions are limited to two 90-minute sessions per day.

He lay in a bed in the courtroom during the session Tuesday, wearing sunglasses and showing no reaction to the testimony.

In other developments in the case, Munich prosecutors said they were shelving their investigation of an allegation that Demjanjuk ran over and killed a Jewish man near the city of Ulm after the war.

German authorities were compelled to investigate after the allegation was filed with them in September, but prosecutors said in a May 14 finding that it was being dropped for lack of sufficient evidence.

They noted that the man who filed the complaint on behalf of the victim’s son had no “specific evidence” of Demjanjuk’s involvement.


Associated Press Writer David Rising contributed to this report from Berlin.

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