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."
JERUSALEM POST, April 28, 2005