An Israeli court Monday found John Demjanjuk guilty of being the Nazi death camp guard "Ivan the Terrible" who sent hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in World War II.
"We determine decisively and without hesitation or doubt that the accused John Demjanjuk who is on trial before us, is Ivan, known as `Ivan the Terrible,' the operator of gas chambers," said presiding Judge Dov Levine.The finding came as Levine continued to read the 450-page summation of the verdict. The reading entered its 11th hour when Levine said Demjanjuk was "Ivan the Terrible."
Demjanjuk, 68, was absent from the court Monday. He listened from an adjoining cell, where he lay on a cot suffering from what his family said was a back injury.
Demjanjuk could face the death penalty if convicted of Nazi war crimes, but observers have said it was more likely he would receive a life prison term when he is sentenced at a later hearing. Defense attorneys said they will appeal.
In their lengthy summation, the judges rejected key defense arguments and said Demjanjuk's testimony was "filled with inconsistent versions."
Earlier, Israel radio reported the former Ohio autoworker stayed away from Monday's court session because his attorney, Yoram Sheftel, told him he thought he would be convicted.
Sheftel confirmed to The Associated Press that he told Demjanjuk three days ago "there is no doubt in my mind he is going to be convicted, even though he deserves an acquittal."
Of Demjanjuk's inability to sit in the courtroom, Sheftel said: "I would not exclude the possibility that it was related to nerves."
He said the judges' lengthy arguments "mean a guilty verdict."
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk is charged with war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people and crimes against humanity for allegedly operating gas chambers
that killed 850,000 Jews at the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942 and 1943.
Levine indicated during his summation that the judges gave great weight to the testimony of five survivors who identified Demjanjuk as "Ivan the Terrible."
The question of identity has been key during the 14-month trial. Demjanjuk denies he is "Ivan" and defense attorneys questioned the memory of survivors.
Levine said survivors' testimony had persuaded the court "these experiences are deeply ingrained on their memories, the horrors are a deep part of them, the sights are before their eyes and the stories are true and accurate."
Polish-born Judge Zvi Tal also rejected a defense contention that "Ivan" was killed during a prisoner revolt in August 1943.
Inconsistences in Demjanjuk's testimony, Tal added, "lead us not to believe the version of the accused ... that he spent 18 months (at a prisoner-of-war camp) is totally unsupportable and implausible."
During a lunch break, defense attorneys said based on what they had heard so far, they were pessimistic about the verdict. "There seems to be an emphasis on the credibility of shaky witnesses," said defense attorney John Gill.
Demjanjuk's wife, Vera, 62, was seen crying and wringing her hands during the lunch break. "I can't even sit down," she said.
Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann, the only other Nazi war criminal to be tried in Israel, was convicted and hanged in 1962.