WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals panel has excoriated the Justice Department's Nazi-hunting unit, saying that it had fraudulently withheld evidence that would have helped John Demjanjuk defend himself against charges that he was one of the most barbaric figures of the Holocaust.
The unanimous opinion yesterday by a three-judge panel in Cincinnati said prosecutors had withheld evidence in part to curry favor with Jewish organizations, which had put pressure on them to prove that Mr. Demjanjuk was the notorious "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp in Poland.
And it contrasted the government's behavior with that of the Israeli authorities, who the court said acted honorably under even greater domestic pressure.
The ruling also said that if the evidence, which indicated that Ivan was another man named Marchenko, had been made available, Mr. Demjanjuk would not have been expelled from the United States and sent to Israel in 1986. Following the extradition, Mr. Demjanjuk was tried in Israel, convicted and sentenced to be hanged.
After five years on death row, he was acquitted by the Israeli Supreme Court in July .