THE Hungarian Government has
asked Australia to return alleged Nazi war criminal Charles
Zentai to Budapest to face a murder charge.
The 83-year-old retired nurse last month became the subject of an international
arrest warrant for the alleged murder of a Jewish teenager
in November 1944, while serving in the army of Hitler's war-time
The Australian has learned Hungarian Justice Minister Jozsef Petretei has lodged
a formal extradition request with the Australian Attorney-General's Department.
The department is preparing a submission
to be considered by Justice Minister Chris Ellison, who will
have the final say on whether the Perth widower must face
court in his native Hungary.
There has never been a successful
extradition of an alleged Nazi war criminal from Australia.
News that Australia had been asked
to send Mr Zentai back to Hungary was greeted with delight
by Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre,
who began mounting a case against Mr Zentai last September.
"We very much hope that
justice will finally be achieved. This sends a really important
message - after the passing of so much time, a person might
think that they got away with murder, but in certain cases
that's not true," he said.
"There are many people
like Mr Zentai out there. Unfortunately, very few of them
will be held accountable.
"But the fact that he is
looking at extradition is proof that, even in 2005, these
Nazi war criminals can be tracked down and they can be brought
Jerusalem-based Dr Zuroff said Mr
Zentai and two accomplices were alleged to have taken a Jewish
man, Peter Balazs, to an army barracks in Budapest and beaten,
tortured and killed him, before throwing his body in the
It is alleged Mr Balazs was killed
because he was not wearing the yellow Star of David, in defiance
of a Nazi edict.
Mr Zentai is said to have fled to
Australia after the war, while his accomplices were caught
He could not be contacted for comment
yesterday but has previously denied any involvement in Mr
Balazs's death, claiming he was not in Hungary at the time.
Mr Zentai, a devout Catholic who lives
in a modest unit in Perth's southern suburbs, has also previously
declared that he would be prepared to return to Hungary to
The widower worked as a mental health
nurse for many years in Perth and has been described by supporters
as a gentle and kind man.
Witness statements from post-war trials
are believed to form much of the case against Mr Zentai,
but Dr Zuroff refused to comment on whether any of the witnesses
were still alive.
A spokesman for Senator Ellison yesterday
refused to comment on the case. The last time Australian
authorities considered an extradition request for an alleged
Nazi war criminal was in 2000.
But the Latvian-born accused, Konrad
Kalejs, died in 2001, aged 88, in a Melbourne nursing home
before he could be extradited. He had been diagnosed with
Alzheimer's disease and cancer.
Latvian prosecutors claimed Kalejs
was an officer in the Arajs Kommando, a notorious death squad
that, along with the German SS, was responsible for killing
tens of thousands of Jews.
April 27, 2005