Accused Nazi death camp executioner John Demjanjuk arrived in Israel today, where he was immediately handcuffed and driven in an armored car to a maximum security prison to await a showcase trial for crimes against humanity.
Demjanjuk, who was extradited to Israel after living for 25 years in the United States, was locked in a cell in the same prison near Tel Aviv where Adolf Eichmann was hanged in 1962 for his role in the extermination of 6 million Jews.
He is the first accused Nazi war criminal ever to be formally extradited to Israel to stand trial for crimes committed during World War II.
A retired 66-year-old Cleveland auto worker, Demjanjuk is the first person since Eichmann to stand trial in Israel for World War II crimes. Eichmann was kidnaped in Buenos Aires by Israeli agents and brought here for an eight-month trial, after which he was hanged.
Identifying Demjanjuk from photographs, Jewish survivors of the Nazi death camp at Treblinka, Poland, have testified that the 66-year-old former Ukrainian was then called "Ivan the Terrible" and that he tortured prisoners as they entered the gas chambers and then released the poison gas that killed them. Some Treblinka survivors have testified that Demjanjuk killed Jewish camp workers with his bare hands, and pulled young girls out of the gas chamber lines and raped them before shooting them.
Demjanjuk arrived at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport after an 11-hour nonstop flight from New York in the screened-off first-class cabin of an El Al Airlines Boeing 747 jetliner, guarded by U.S. marshals and Israeli security officers.
Wearing a brown suit and an open-necked shirt, the handcuffed Demjanjuk was met at the top of the portable stairs leading to the aircraft by Alex Ishshalom, head of the Israeli police investigating team assigned to the case, and a Ukrainian-speaking interpreter.
Ishshalom read Demjanjuk his rights to remain silent under Israeli interrogation, and then escorted the suspected war criminal to a rented Brink's armored truck, which began the 10-minute drive to the Ayalon maximum security prison, trailed by a long line of police vehicles carrying heavily armed security forces.
Only a small group of journalists was allowed near the El Al aircraft after it landed in a remote section of Ben-Gurion Airport.
Demjanjuk, who is accused under Israel's 1983 extradition request of being a guard and gas chamber operator at Treblinka in 1942-43, showed no sign of emotion as he was led to the armored car bearing Hebrew lettering.
Demjanjuk maintains that he was serving in the Soviet Army when captured by the Germans in May 1942 and was taken to Poland. He has contended that he was the victim of fabricated evidence supplied by the Soviet KGB secret police.
He entered the United States as a displaced person in 1952 and was naturalized six years later, with the U.S. government beginning court proceedings in 1977 to revoke his citizenship on the basis that he misrepresented himself in applying for entry and citizenship.
Demjanjuk was driven to the Ayalon Prison in nearby Ramle, given a medical examination and placed in a cell in a secluded wing of the maximum security prison that officials said was equipped to prevent suicide attempts.