CLEVELAND - John Demjanjuk, standing without assistance amid falling snowflakes, emerges from an office building, lifts his right arm to place a cap on his head, then takes 18 steps to a car. He takes those steps with nobody helping him, opens the passenger-side car door, slowly seats himself and shuts the door.
To a casual observer, there's nothing unusual about the scene, recorded on April 6, but it contrasts sharply with the persistent argument Demjanjuk's lawyer and family are making: that he is seriously ill, usually bedridden and physically impaired.
The Justice Department expects judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to conclude there is no reason to stop the 89-year-old Ohio man's deportation to Germany, where a March 10 arrest warrant in Munich alleges he was a guard at the Nazi death camp Sobibor in Poland during part of 1943.
The U.S has a public interest "in removing an alien who participated in Nazi-sponsored mass murder," wrote Robert Thomson, deputy director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heyer.
The Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have tried to convince the appeals court that Demjanjuk's medical condition is stable, that a doctor and nurse would be with him on the trip to Germany and that he would receive medical care once there.
In all, five government surveillance videos, each showing Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-YAHN'-yuk) functional and apparently normal, given his advanced age, were submitted to the court Thursday. Some show him sitting in a wheelchair, talking. Some show him walking into or from a medical building on his own or with assistance of one person.
A government video on April 13 also shows him walking without help.
Two videos submitted to the court by Demjanjuk's lawyer and family show him moaning in pain during a recent immigration doctor's medical examination and also on April 14, when immigration officers carried him in a wheelchair out of his home in an aborted deportation attempt.
Another legal issue before the federal appeals court is whether it is even the proper venue to consider the matter. The Justice Department says a determination that Demjanjuk can be removed from the United States has recently been made in Falls Church, Va., by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Demjanjuk's attorneys on Thursday appealed the board's decision last week to deny a stay of deportation and a request to reopen his case. Their filing to the 6th Circuit asked judges to review that decision.
The Justice Department responded Friday with its own filing to the appeals court, saying that Demjanjuk's various appeals are a delaying tactic to prevent deportation.
"The underlying question is, can the government execute this final order or is it possible for this proven Nazi persecutor to continue indefinitely to frustrate a legitimate and important governmental goal, ridding this country of Nazi persecutors?" Thomson wrote.
Demjanjuk was held in federal custody for about three hours April 14 until the court granted a stay pending review of medical records.
In a sworn statement submitted to the court, Immigration Enforcement Agent Aaron Roby wrote that while in custody, Demjanjuk got out of a wheelchair twice, to use the restroom and to get into his son's pickup truck.
Demjanjuk seemed to understand his circumstance, Roby indicated.
"When he learned he would be going home instead of Germany, he became quite happy, smiling and appearing jovial," Roby wrote.
Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said Friday in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the government videos don't change the case before the appeals court. The family says deportation would amount to torture.
"A video of him walking that particular day may play well for the government on TV but I expect will have no bearing on the actual medical evidence and legal issues being considered by the court," he said. "He gets medical treatment and travels to the hospital or clinic on a weekly basis for multiple medical issues. Sometimes a wheelchair is required and other times he is able to walk a short distance."