Australian government is considering a request from Hungary
to extradite an 86-year-old alleged Nazi war criminal accused
of killing a Jewish teenager during World War II.
Hungary asked the Australian government last month to extradite Perth resident
Charles Zentai, the country's ambassador to Australia Lajos
"We handed it over to the
foreign ministry, this extradition in relation to Charles
Zentai, and the Hungarian side is waiting for an answer from
the Australian government," Mr Fodor said.
Mr Zentai, a former soldier in the
Hungarian Army, has been accused by leading international
Jewish human rights body, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, of
killing an 18-year-old Jewish man in Hungary in 1944.
It claimed Mr Zentai murdered the
Jewish man when he failed to wear a Star Of David as required
in countries controlled by Nazi Germany during WW II.
Mr Zentai and two accomplices allegedly
took the man to a barracks in Budapest and tortured and killed
him before dumping him in the Danube River.
Mr Zentai is said to have fled to
Australia while his two alleged accomplices were subsequently
convicted and jailed.
He has denied the accusations and
said in January he was prepared to travel to Hungary to clear
Justice Minister Chris Ellison said
the request was being examined to ensure it met the criteria
of the extradition treaty.
"We have had an official
request from the Hungarian government for the extradition
of Mr Charles Zentai on suspected war crimes," Senator Ellison told reporters in Perth.
"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."
Senator Ellison, who will make the
final decision regarding extradition, said the request would
be dealt with expeditiously.
"Should Mr Zentai be extradited,
that is not any decision as to his guilt or otherwise and
of course I can't pre-empt what my decision will be at this
point in time," he said.
Mr Zentai's personal circumstances,
such as his age, would considered, he added.
There has never been a successful
extradition of an alleged Nazi war criminal from Australia.
But if the extradition request were
successful, Mr Zentai may appeal the decision in the Federal
Mr Zentai did not return AAP's calls.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre's chief
Nazi hunter Dr Efraim Zuroff said Australian authorities
should expedite legal action against Mr Zentai.
"The passage of time in
no way diminishes the severity of the crimes committed during
the Holocaust and the importance of holding the perpetrators
of those crimes accountable," Dr Zuroff said in a statement from Jerusalem.
"The extradition request
submitted by Hungary creates an excellent opportunity for
Australia to take successful legal action for the first time
against a Nazi war criminal."
The Australian Federal Police (AFP)
is assisting Hungarian authorities.
April 27, 2005