Nazi accused free to stay in Australia

2012-08-15 20:12
Charles Zentai, leaves the Perth Magistrates Court following proceedings to extradite to Zentai to Hungary, in Perth, Australia. (Ron D Raine, AP/File)

Charles Zentai, leaves the Perth Magistrates Court following proceedings to extradite to Zentai to Hungary, in Perth, Australia. (Ron D Raine, AP/File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Sydney - A 90-year-old man accused of being a Nazi war criminal won his fight on Wednesday to stay in Australia, ending a legal battle to extradite him to Hungary over the 1944 murder of a Jewish teenager.

Charles Zentai was allegedly one of three Nazi-backed Hungarian soldiers who tortured and killed a Jewish boy in Budapest, a crime for which he has always maintained his innocence.

"The effect of the High Court's decision is that Mr Zentai will not be surrendered to Hungary," a spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said, confirming that the decision was final.

"Mr Zentai cannot be surrendered for extradition because the offence of 'war crime' did not exist under Hungarian law at the time of Mr Zentai's alleged criminal conduct."

Hungary first requested the extradition of Zentai, an Australian citizen, in 2005 for the offence of "war crime", namely a fatal assault on Peter Balazs, 18, in November 1944 for not wearing a yellow Star of David.

He and two fellow soldiers in the Hungarian army, which was then allied to the Germans, were accused of beating Balazs and then tossing his body into the Danube River.

Zentai has always claimed he had already left Nazi-occupied Budapest by then and could not have been involved in the murder.

He said on Wednesday he was relieved at the High Court decision.

"The way I feel at the moment... I'm just overwhelmed," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Perth.

Extradition regime

"I've been so stressed, the last few days in particular, so now I just don't know how I feel."

Asked whether he was still prepared to be questioned by Hungarian authorities if they came to Australia, he said: "Oh yes, I am."

The Australian government agreed to send Zentai to Hungary to face the allegations in late 2009, but he fought a legal battle against the move and the Federal Court eventually overturned his extradition.

Canberra pushed ahead with its case, despite pleas from Zentai's family that he was elderly and had health problems, appealing the Federal Court's interpretation of an "extraditable offence".

In late 2011, when the government was granted leave to appeal to the High Court, the nation's highest judicial authority, it said the matter raised "a significant issue for the administration of Australia's extradition regime".

It said on Wednesday that the High Court decision provided certainty about the interpretation of a provision of Australia's extradition treaty with Hungary, but did not alter extradition arrangements.

Zentai's lawyer Denis Barich confirmed to AFP that he received a letter from the attorney-general's department saying that extradition proceedings had been concluded.

"Obviously the family and Mr Zentai are over the moon, naturally. It's been a seven-year saga," he said.

"One thing I'm worried about... people might see this and say Mr Zentai is being let off on a technicality.

"But that's just a small part of a number of matters why this matter shouldn't have come this far anyway."

Barich said had Zentai, who has lived in Australia for almost six decades and has denied ever being a Nazi, been extradited it was unlikely the case would have stood up given the evidence.

Australia conducted war crimes trials of Japanese defendants between November 1945 and April 1951, but since then has not concluded a successful prosecution of a war criminal or extradited a citizen to face trial elsewhere.

Read more on:    australia  |  nazi crimes

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


12 Cool cat facts

Here are some surprising things you may not know about your fascinating feline



Chocolate can be fatal for dogs
Spider-man star's adorable relationship with his dog
Do you know what you are feeding your dog?
Watch: Proof animals have souls
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.