German prosecutors said Monday they are appealing a German court's decision to release Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile; JURIST news archive] after he was convicted [JURIST report] of helping murder thousands during the Holocaust. Last Thursday, a German court in Munich found the 91-year-old Demjanjuk guilty of assisting in the murder of nearly 28,000 Jews while serving as a guard at the Sobibor death camp. He was sentenced to five years in prison, less than the six years sought by the prosecution [JURIST report]. But Judge Ralph Alt ordered his release [DW report] because of his advanced age and because the verdict is not final. Appeals could take another year or more. With no surviving witnesses, Demjanjuk was convicted based on wartime documents as prosecutors proved he was guilty because he worked at the death camp. Germany's chief Nazi war crimes investigator also stated that there are two investigations underway [Reuters report] that are similar to the Demjanuk case.
Demjanjuk's trial began [JURIST report] in November 2009 but was marked by extensive delay. Last May, the court denied a motion to dismiss the charges [JURIST report] filed by the defense, which argued there was a lack of credible evidence. The court rejected the argument, saying they found the evidence against Demjanjuk to be strong. In October 2009, Demjanjuk was found fit to stand trial after the court rejected appeals relating to his health [JURIST reports], although the court limited hearings to no more than two 90-minute sessions per day. Demjanjuk fought a lengthy legal battle over his alleged involvement with Nazi death camps during World War II. He was living in the United States deported to Germany after the US Supreme Court [official website] denied his stay of deportation [JURIST report].