Israeli Nazi hunter deplores Demjanjuk release

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A leading Israeli Nazi-hunter has deplored the release of former death camp guard John Demjanjuk, hours after a German court convicted him of helping to kill at least 28,000 people.

Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Israel office, said the release of Demjanjuk pending an appeal against his conviction Thursday and sentence of five years imprisonment, rendered meaningless the long process of his extradition from the United States and eventual trial.

"The release of Demjanjuk is deplorable and is an insult to his victims," Zuroff told AFP on Friday.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Los Angeles-based centre, which seeks to root out alleged war criminals worldwide, said his organisation initially welcomed the news of Demjanjuk's conviction and imprisonment.

"But upon hearing the comments of the presiding judge, Ralph Alt, that Demjanjuk was free pending appeal ... we feel that this is an insult to his victims and to the survivors," he said in a statement.

"After all of this they may see John Demjanjuk strolling in the park in Germany for having been complicit in the mass murder of over 28,000," he added. "The very least they should have done, pending his appeal, is place him under house arrest given the severity of his crimes."

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, 91, was convicted of helping kill at least 28,000 inmates while a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland in 1943.

But Alt ordered his immediate release, pending a final decision by a federal court and possible appeal, citing his age and saying that he no longer posed a threat to society.

© 2011 AFP

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