Australia court denies Hungary bid to extradite Nazi war crimes suspect

Australia court denies Hungary bid to extradite Nazi war crimes suspect

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[JURIST] Suspected Nazi collaborator Charles Zentai won an appeal on Friday in the Federal Court of Australia [official website] denying a request from the Hungarian government to extradite the now-Australian citizen in order to stand trial in Hungary for war crimes. Zentai is accused of killing Jewish teenager Peter Balazs in 1944 in Budapest for failing to wear the Star of David identifying him as a Jew. Judge Neil McKerracher overturned an extradition order made last year by Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor [official website], holding that the case had no jurisdictional precedent. He directed the government to explore other options besides extraditing Zentai, such as trying him in a domestic court. McKerracher also said it was inhumane to send Zentai, now in his 80s, back to Hungary due to his age and poor health. The extradition proceedings were initiated by the Simon Wiesenthal Center [official website], an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to locating former Nazi war criminals. The center, which has identified Zentai on its top ten most wanted list, strongly criticized the ruling [press release] stating that:

Today is a very sad day for Australia, Australian justice, and especially for the Balazs family and for people seeking justice for the victims of the Holocaust. If anything, the Zentai case shows a lack of understanding by the Australian judicial system of the urgency and importance of bringing suspected Holocaust criminals to justice. Contrary to today’s decision, Zentai’s age is totally irrelevant…and the notion that he would be treated harshly in Hungary, a member in good standing of the [EU] and NATO is ludicrous. We urge the Hungarian and Australian authorities to take all possible measures to overturn today’s unfortunate decision.

Zentai denies the allegations against him and claims that he was not in Budapest at the time of the alleged offense. It is not yet known whether the Australian government will appeal the decision.

Several suspected Nazi collaborators have recently faced deportation to stand trial for war crimes committed during World War II. In May this year a US immigration court ordered the deportation of former SS guard Anton Geiser [JURIST report] to Austria for serving as an armed guard at the Sachsenhausen and the Buchenwald concentration camps during World War II. Earlier that month accused Nazi prison guard John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile; JURIST news archive] was deported to Germany after exhausting the US appeals process [JURIST report] all the way to the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive]. The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk faces 27,900 accessory accounts [JURIST report] stemming from his alleged involvement as a guard at Sobibor [Death Camps backgrounder] concentration camp.