Laszlo Csatary
Laszlo CsataryReuters

Top Nazi war crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary, who is accused of overseeing the deportation of thousands of Jews to their deaths during World War II, denied all allegations against him at a first hearing before prosecutors in Hungary on Tuesday, his lawyer said.   

"Csatary denied all allegations against him," his attorney, Horvath, told journalists after a three-hour closed-door hearing.   

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has said that Csatary, 97, is responsible for organizing the deportation of approximately 16,000 Jews from the ghetto of Kosice in present-day southeast Slovakia to their deaths in Ukraine and to the gas chambers at the Auschwitz extermination camp.

Tuesday's hearing was aimed at enabling prosecutors to lay out their evidence against Csatary, who was arrested earlier this month after apparently living for years undisturbed in Hungary.

No formal charges have yet been filed against Csatary, who is now under house arrest.

"He denied being an anti-Semite before, during and after the events of Kassa, (the Hungarian name for Kosice)," Horvath said.

Following the hearing, Csatary was led away in a car after Tuesday's hearing, his face hidden under a blanket.

"Much of the hearing dealt with his alleged anti-Semitism, which he denied, citing examples within his family and his circle of friends," Horvath added.

Csatary also denied he was ever the commander of the Jewish ghetto of Kosice, which was then part of Nazi-allied Hungary, or that he had ever signed any documents in that capacity, Horvath said.

Last week, a historian from Hungary's Holocaust museum said several documents dealing with the deportations bore Csatary's signature.

However, Horvath said Csatary could "easily be mistaken for someone else".

The next step against Csatary is unclear, the lawyer said, noting there had been no mention at the hearing of a possible extradition procedure.

At the time of Cstary’s arrest, Efraim Zuroff, director the of the Simone Wiesenthal urged authorities to bring Csatary to justice as quickly as possible, saying, "This is the debt owed to his many victims who were tortured and sent to be murdered at Auschwitz."

"The passage of time does not diminish the guilt of the killers and old age should not afford protection to the perpetrators of Holocaust crimes," Zuroff added.