A Slovak court said Tuesday it will seek the extradition of Laszlo Csatary, a 98-year-old alleged Nazi-era war criminal, from Hungary for re-trial in Slovakia on charges of crimes against humanity, the AFP news agency reports.
A communist-era Czechoslovakian court sentenced the ethnic Hungarian to death in absentia in 1948 for having organized the World War II deportation to their deaths of some 16,000 Jews from the ghetto of Kosice in present-day southeast Slovakia, then part of Hungary.
But last year a Kosice citizen whose father was deported to Germany in January 1945 filed charges against Csatary for crimes against humanity, which carry no statute of limitations, insisting that he be tried on Slovak soil.
Since the death penalty is now banned in Slovakia, the court in Kosice reduced Csatary's sentence to life imprisonment to help pave the way for his extradition, court spokeswoman Marcela Galova told AFP.
Slovakia split peacefully from the Czech Republic in 1993.
Csatary tops the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center's dwindling wanted list of surviving suspected Nazi war criminals.
The charges include Csatary's responsibility for deportations of Kosice citizens to Nazi Germany.
Justice Minister Tomas Borec said earlier he wanted Csatary to be tried in Slovakia, echoing a similar call by the country's Jewish community.
Csatary, whose full name is Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary, helped run the Jewish ghetto in Kosice, a town that was visited in April 1944 by Adolf Eichmann, a key figure in the Nazis' "Final Solution", the Wiesenthal Center says.
While there between 1941 and 1944, Csatary beat and brutalized Jews and sent 16,000 to their deaths in Ukraine and to the gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp, the center said.
Currently under house arrest in Budapest, Csatary was arrested last July in the Hungarian capital on information from the Wiesenthal Center. At the time, the state prosecutor said he was in good mental and physical health.
Csatary had fled to Canada after the war but apparently lived undisturbed in Hungary for about 15 years before his arrest.
"Csatary has until April 20 to choose an attorney. If he doesn't choose one, an attorney will be appointed for him and the court will then set the date for a trial," Galova said.