Three High Court judges in the Australian capital Canberra ruled that a panel of at least five judges will hear 85-year-old Charles Zentai’s appeal against a lower court’s ruling that he can be transferred to Hungary over allegations that he murdered a Jewish teenager in Budapest in 1944.
The hearing was to be held in Perth Magistrates’ Court on September 25, BosNewsLife monitored. Zentai, in a joint procedure with alleged Irish fraudster Vincent O’Donoghue, will reportedly ask the High Court to rule that a magistrates’ court does not have jurisdiction to hear extradition proceedings.
The legal wrangling came as a set-back for Hungary’s Foreign Ministry, which has been investigating Zentai since December 2004 over allegations that he killed Peter Balazs, 18, for failing to wear a yellow star identifying him as a Jew. Zentai has denied the charges. Hungarian officials opened the case after pressure from the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Center began "Operation: Last Chance", which aims to discover the whereabouts of alleged war criminals across Central and Eastern Europe, over 60 years after an estimated six million Jews perished in the Holocaust.
The organization has citied the Hungarian authorities for not doing enough to capture suspects of war crimes in the 1940s, when Hungary was a close ally of Nazi Germany and about 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed.
Earlier this year the Simon Wiesenthal Center reacted angrily to a decision by a Hungarian court not to enforce a 1944 prison sentence passed on a man found guilty of war crimes. The Center last year uncovered the judgement against Sandor Kepiro, 93, for his apparent role in the massacre of around 1,000 Jews and Serbs in Novi Sad, Serbia, in January 1942. He admitted to rounding up people, but denied killing them.
Kepiro was first sentenced to 10 years in 1944, but fled to Argentina when he was freed by the Nazi-aligned regime in charge at the time. Post-war authorities sentenced him to 14 years in absentia in 1946 and he finally returned to Hungary in 1996. However, the Budapest Municipal Court reportedly said that it had considered the case in February and decided that the sentence could no longer t be carried out.
"He was saved by the Nazis once, and now the Hungarians are letting him off," the Israel Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff said in comments to German News Agency DPA. "This is outrageous." He and others told BosNewsLife earlier that their investigations were not about revenge but about seeking justice.
"This is not about revenge, this is about justice", said the soft spoken Aryeh Rubin, whose parents suffered in the Holocaust, in an earlier interview. "It is too late for revenge," said Rubin, who founded the Targum Shlishi Foundation, which supports "Operation: Last Chance."
"This people lived (their) lives for 60 years. They raised families. They lived normal lives, while their victims were laying as dust in the ground."