Accused Nazi War Criminal Wins Extradition Battle
Australia's High Court ruled on Wednesday that suspected Nazi war criminal cannot be extradited to Hungary to face accusations that he tortured and killed a Jewish teenager during World War II.
Charles Zentai, 90, and two fellow Hungarian soldiers allegedly tortured and killed a Jewish teenager in November 1944 for failing to wear the yellow Star of David. They then allegedly threw the victim's body into the Danube River in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
In a 5-1 decision, the court ruled that Zentai could not be extradited because "war crimes" did not exist as a legal offense in Hungary in 1944.
Zentai has claimed that he is innocent, arguing that he left Nazi-occupied Budapest before the crime occurred.
“Still the stress, you know, I've been so stressed the last few days in particular, yes. So now I just don't know how I feel,” Zentai told reporters upon hearing the court’s decision.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center tracked down Zentai in 2004 and he has been listed among the organization's top ten most wanted Nazi criminals for participating in "manhunts, persecution, and murder of Jews in Budapest in 1944."
Zentai moved to Australia after World War II and has been living in the western city of Perth.
President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Danny Lamm, said it was a sad day for the victim’s family and all those who awaited the Nazi criminal to be brought to justice, The Australian reported.
"It will be distressing to many that Zentai will now live out his final days untroubled by any prospect of having to account for his (alleged) past actions,'' he said.
"From the reasoning of the majority of the judges of the High Court, it appears that if the offense in relation to which extradition was sought had been specified by the Hungarian government as ‘murder’ rather than solely as a ‘war crime’, Zentai would not have been able to resist extradition,'' he said.