Wednesday April 27, 4:04 PM

  Canberra considering Hungarian request to extradite suspected Nazi war criminal


Australia is considering a request from Hungary to extradite a suspected Nazi war criminal wanted for allegedly beating to death a Jewish teenager during World War II, the justice minister said Wednesday.

Charles Zentai, 86, has been under investigation by Hungary's Foreign Ministry since December on suspicion that he murdered 18-year-old Peter Balazs in November 1944 for failing to wear a yellow star identifying him as a Jew. The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center alleges Zentai beat Balazs to death in a Budapest army barracks.

The Hungarian-born Zentai, who now lives in Perth, capital of Western Australia state, has denied the allegation. He could not immediately be contacted Wednesday for comment.

"We have had an official request from the Hungarian government for the extradition of Mr. Charles Zentai on suspected war crimes," Australia's Justice Minister Chris Ellison said. "That will be processed in accordance with our extradition laws. Of course Mr. Zentai, like any person in Australia, has a presumption of innocence until proven guilty and of course that presumption of innocence must apply in this case."

Zentai was tracked down as part of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Operation Last Chance - a campaign aimed at locating and prosecuting World War II war criminals.

Targeting people in the Baltic states, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Romania, the campaign has so far identified about 300 suspects. It offers up to US$10,000 (ВЂ7,700) for information leading to the prosecution of war crimes suspects.

Associated Press, April 27, 2005