Demjanjuk Lawyer Rejects Testimony of Expert Witness

The defense team at the trial of war crimes suspect John Demjanjuk sought to stop a Dutch historian from giving evidence yesterday, citing suspicion of bias.

Lawyer Ulrich Busch told the court that Professor Johannes Houwink ten Cate had said in radio interviews before and during the trial that he was convinced the former Nazi concentration camp guard was guilty.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, 89, is being tried in Munich on charges of being an accessory to 27,900 murders at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

The court reserved its decision on the lawyer's motion and allowed the Amsterdam-based professor on the Holocaust and genocide to present his testimony. To back up his claim, Busch produced excerpts from an interview given by Houwink ten Cate in which the professor said he "does not have the slightest doubt" that Demjanjuk was involved in the "industrial murder" of Jews. Busch said Houwink ten Cate had voiced a "conviction that Demjanjuk will be found guilty" in Munich.

Someone who had formed such a judgment should not be allowed to testify as an expert witness in a trial in which the question of guilt is being decided, Busch said.

Demjanjuk stands accused of being one of the guards who herded Jews into Sobibor's makeshift gas chambers out in the woods during his stint at the camp. Prosecutors say he did not act under duress, as he volunteered to be a guard and remain one. Demjanjuk, who was deported to Germany from the United States, where he had been living, could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The court case is expected to be one of the last major war crimes trials from the Nazi period.