[ENG] Alleged Nazi war criminal facing extradition

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Roel R.
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[ENG] Alleged Nazi war criminal facing extradition

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8jul05

ALLEGED Nazi war criminal Charles Zentai has been arrested in Perth and could be extradited to Hungary to face allegations of abducting and brutally murdering a Jewish teen in 1944.

Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison said he had signed a notice under the extradition act initiating the formal proceedings for Mr Zentai, 83, to be extradited and empowering a magistrate to issue a warrant for his arrest.

His case will tonight go before a Perth magistrate, who will decide if Mr Zentai is eligible for extradition.

"Australia is committed to meeting its treaty obligations to extradite to Hungary persons accused of serious crimes in Hungary," Senator Ellison said.

"However, we also have to ensure that such persons are accorded due process under the extradition act."

If Mr Zentai is sent to Europe, he will be the first Australian to be extradited over alleged war crimes.

The pensioner, who lives in the Perth suburb of Willeton, is suspected of having tortured and murdered 18-year-old Jewish man Peter Balazs in Budapest in 1944 while serving in the army of Hitler's wartime ally, Hungary.

The former warrant officer and two accomplices allegedly took the man to a barracks in Budapest and tortured and killed him before dumping him in the Danube River.

The Hungarian Government requested Mr Zentai's extradition earlier this year after the Simon Wiesenthal Centre - a Jewish human rights organisation - alleged he escaped to Germany after the war by passing himself off as a refugee.

The widower has denied the accusations and said in January he was prepared to travel to Hungary to clear his name.
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60 years on, Zentai arrested
By Paige Taylor
09jul05

ACCUSED war criminal Charles Zentai was arrested in Perth yesterday more than 60 years after he is alleged to have brutally murdered a teenage Jew.

The 83-year-old appeared shaken and nervous as he was led from his Willeton home in suburban Perth by Australian Federal Police officers shortly before 4pm yesterday.

The pensioner, who emigrated to Australia in 1950, could become the first person in Australia extradited on suspicion of war crimes after federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison yesterday signed documents acknowledging the Hungarian Government's request for his return.

Mr Zentai appeared at a special late sitting of the Perth Magistrates Court in front of magistrate Paul Heaney and was granted bail on condition he provide a $50,000 bond and $50,000 surety, surrender his passport and report to police three times a week.

His lawyer, Michael Bowden, said Mr Zentai did not pose a flight risk as he suffered from a serious heart condition and had known about the pending extradition proceedings for several months. His client would fight the extradition and the matter was likely to take "quite some time".

Outside court, Mr Bowden said his client maintained his innocence and had been very stressed by the allegations made against him.

News that Mr Zentai had been arrested was greeted with delight by Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, who began mounting a case against Mr Zentai last September.

"This is a very good day for justice and for the victims of the Holocaust and for Australia," he said.

"We only hope that the process will be completed speedily and efficiently so that justice can finally be achieved.'

Jerusalem-based Dr Zuroff said he would pass the good news on to the family of teenager Peter Balazs, who was murdered in Budapest in November 1944.

"The efforts made by the father Dezso Balazs after the war to try and do everything possible to bring his son's murderers to justice, is bearing fruit decades later in far-away Australia," he said.

"It's a tremendous sense of historic justice."

Mr Zentai's arrest came just hours after a lunchtime press conference in which Senator Ellison indicated that although he had made a decision on the extradition, he would not make any announcement until Monday.

In a press release issued late yesterday after the arrest, Mr Ellison said: "The Australian Government worked closely with the Hungarian Government to ensure that the extradition request satisfied the requirements of the Australian Extradition Act so that proceedings could be commenced."

In coming months, a magistrate will decide whether Mr Zentai should be extradited to face a murder trial in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, where he served as a warrant officer with the Hitler-aligned Hungarian army from 1942 to 1945.

The court's decision must ultimately be ratified by Senator Ellison.

Mr Zentai's alleged involvement in the abduction, beating and murder of 18-year-old Peter Balazs in November 1944 first came to the attention of Hungarian authorities during the trial of fellow soldier Lajos Nagy in 1947.

A warrant for Mr Zentai's arrest was issued in Budapest the following year but he had already fled Hungary for Germany, where he lived in the American, then French, occupied zones before coming to Australia in 1950, claiming to be a refugee.

The original warrant detailed how Balazs was subjected to a brutal five-hour beating that led to his death.

Documents obtained by The Weekend Australian yesterday reveal that Mr Zentai claimed he left Hungary to escape from the Communist Party.
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'Nazi-hunters' welcome arrest

09jul05

NAZI-hunter organization the Simon Wiesenthal Centre today welcomed the arrest in Australia of an 83-year-old Hungarian immigrant suspected of war crimes during World War II.

Charles Zentai faces extradition to Hungary after Australian police arrested him Friday over allegations he abducted and brutally murdered a Jewish teenager more than 60 years ago.

The Wiesenthal Centre's chief Nazi-hunter Ephraim Zuroff, who supplied material on the case to Hungarian and Australian authorities, said he was "deeply satisfied" with developments and urged Canberra to expedite Zentai's extradition.

"(It) moves us another step closer to achieving justice and is a powerful reminder that Nazi war criminals can still be held accountable for their crimes," the Jerusalem-based Zuroff said in a statement.

"His extradition to stand trial in Budapest will constitute the first successful legal action taken in Australia against a (suspected) Holocaust perpetrator and we look forward to that taking place as quickly as possible."

Zentai appeared late Friday before a magistrate in Perth and was granted $50,000 bail and ordered to reappear in court on July 19.

His arrest came hours after Justice Minister Chris Ellison approved an official extradition request filed by the Hungarian government.

Zentai, who emigrated to Australia in 1950 and worked as a nurse in the Perth area, is suspected of having tortured and murdered 18-year-old Jewish man Peter Balazs in Budapest in 1944 while serving in the army of Hitler's wartime ally, Hungary.

The former warrant officer and two accomplices allegedly took the man to a barracks in Budapest and tortured and killed him before dumping him in the Danube River.

He is then alleged to have escaped to Germany after the war by passing himself off as a refugee.
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