February 4, 2005 - 4:18PM THE AGE
  Hungary investigates Aussie 'war criminal'

Hungarian officials have started an investigation into an Australian alleged to have tortured a Jew 60 years ago.

Charles Zentai, an 86-year-old Hungarian-born Australian now living in Perth, is suspected of torturing and murdering an 18-year-old man in Budapest in 1944 while serving in the army of Hitler's wartime ally Hungary.

Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which investigates Nazi crimes, today submitted documents backing the allegations to Hungarian officials.

Dr Zuroff told journalists in Budapest that an investigation was under way.

"The military prosecutor's office has begun an investigation into murder and other cases of violence and torture of minors," he said.

It is alleged the victim was killed because he was not wearing the yellow Star of David, which the Nazis forced Jews to wear.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Chris Ellison said Australian Federal Police were investigating the matter.

"As this matter is subject to an ongoing investigation, we can't make any comment," he said.

Mr Zentai has denied the claim, saying he was not in Hungary on the date the alleged offence took place.

Australia has an extradition treaty with Hungary, as well as an agreement for mutual assistance in investigating criminal matters.

Six million Jews across Europe were killed in the Nazi genocide in World War II.

Mr Zentai was located during the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Operation Last Chance - a campaign aimed at finding and prosecuting World War II war criminals.

The Age, February 4, 2005