Thursday, 28 April
  Australia urged to extradite suspected war criminal
By Sam Ser

The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Wednesday urged Australia to extradite suspected war criminal Karoly (Charles) Zentai to Hungary, expressing "deep satisfaction" that Hungary had acted on the center's information in the case but calling upon the Australian authorities to respond quickly.

Hungary submitted a formal extradition request for Zentai last month, but started investigating him – and working with Australian authorities – in December. Zentai is suspected of participating, with two other Hungarian Army soldiers, in the fatal torture and beating of 18-year-old Peter Balazs at a Budapest army barracks in 1944 for the Jewish teen's failure to wear a yellow Star of David. The two other soldiers were convicted and sentenced for their part in the murder.

As part of "Operation Last Chance," the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Targum Shlishi organization traced Zentai to the suburbs of Perth in Western Australia, his home for some 40 years. The octogenarian former mental health nurse has denied the allegations and taken comfort in the support of his local Catholic church, according to Australian media.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Targum Shlishi founder Aryeh Rubin said that 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 who... was able to illegally gain entry to Australia. Hungary has taken all the necessary steps to achieve justice in this case, and now it is Australia's obligation to do its share to help complete the process."

Australia's Justice Ministry is still reviewing the extradition request.

"We have had an official request from the Hungarian government for the extradition of Mr. Charles Zentai on suspected war crimes," Justice Minister Chris Ellison told reporters. "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."

Meanwhile, Hungarian Ambassador to Australia Lajos Fodor told the Australian Associated Press, "The Hungarian side is waiting for an answer from the Australian government."

THE JERUSALEM POST, April 28, 2005