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Hungary charges 90-year-old former communist minister with war crimes

The Budapest Chief Prosecutor [official website, in Hungarian] on Monday announced charges against a near-91-year-old former communist interior minister for war crimes in connection with the killing of more than 50 civilians demonstrating against the Hungarian regime in 1956. Tibor Ibolya [AP backgrounder], the prosecutor, alleges [AP report] that Bela Biszku helped organize the shootings, carried out by the armed forces, during the country's civilian uprising and fight for independence that played a role in the Hungarian Revolution [BBC backgrounder]. Biszku was taken into custody on Monday and could face life in prison if convicted. While Ibolya made clear that the defendant is in good physical and mental condition, lawyers for Biszku have yet to respond to the charges.

Hungary and several other nations have recently embarked on a hunt for suspected war criminals. In August the High Court of Australia denied the Hungarian government's request [JURIST report] to extradite Charles Zentai, an Australian citizen, back to his native Hungarian land based on the allegation that he had beaten a Jewish teenager to death in Hungary in 1944. Earlier in August Slovakian authorities filed charges against a 97-year-old Hungarian man arrested [JURIST reports] in Budapest in July on allegations of abusing and helping deport thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. In May, a US immigration court ordered the deportation of former SS member Anton Geiser [JURIST report] to Austria for serving as an armed guard at the Sachsenhausen and the Buchenwald concentration camps during World War II. The recent action by Hungarian officials may have been prompted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) [advocacy website], a Jewish human rights organization committed to finding and prosecuting Holocaust war criminals, which initially called on Hungary [JURIST report] in April to prosecute former Nazi Laszlo Csatary.

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