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AP Exclusive: FBI thought Demjanjuk evidence faked
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BERLIN – An FBI report kept secret for 25 years said the Soviet Union "quite likely fabricated" evidence central to the prosecution of John Demjanjuk — a revelation that could help the defense as closing arguments resume Wednesday in the retired Ohio auto worker's Nazi war crimes trial in Germany.
The newly declassified FBI field office report, obtained by The Associated Press, casts doubt on the authenticity of a Nazi ID card that is the key piece of evidence in allegations that Demjanjuk served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.
Throughout three decades of U.S. hearings, an extradition, a death sentence followed by acquittal in Israel, a deportation and now a trial in Munich, the arguments have relied heavily on the photo ID from an SS training camp that indicates Demjanjuk was sent to Sobibor.
Claims that the card and other evidence against Demjanjuk are Soviet forgeries have repeatedly been made by Demjanjuk's defense attorneys. However, the FBI report provides the first known confirmation that American investigators had similar doubts.
"Justice is ill-served in the prosecution of an American citizen on evidence which is not only normally inadmissible in a court of law, but based on evidence and allegations quite likely fabricated by the KGB," the FBI's Cleveland field office said in the 1985 report, four years after the Soviets had shown U.S. investigators the card.
It was the height of the Cold War at the time, and the ID card from the Nazi's Trawniki training camp had not been as closely examined by Western experts as it has been today. Since then it has been scrutinized and validated by courts in the U.S., Israel and Germany — though experts at the current trial left room for doubt, with one conceding that a counterfeiter with the right materials could have forged the card and other documents.
The FBI agents argued that the Soviets had an interest in faking the documents as part of a campaign to smear anti-communist emigres. Those conclusions contradict the findings of another branch of the Department of Justice, the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, which was in charge of the overall Demjanjuk probe.
A quarter-century later, Demjanjuk, now 90, is standing trial in Munich on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder, which he denies. A verdict is expected within a month.