An 86-year-old alleged Nazi war criminal could face extradition to his native Hungary, an Australian court has ruled. He is charged with murdering a Jewish teenager in Budapest in 1944.
Zentai has lived in Australia for over half a century
The court in Perth, Australia, ruled on Wednesday, Aug. 20, that Charles Zentai is eligible for extradition to Hungary. Zentai is to remain in custody in Perth until the appeals process runs its course.
The 86-year-old has denied an accusation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center that he participated in the fatal beating of 18-year-old Peter Balazs, who was apprehended on a tram in 1944 for not wearing the mandatory yellow Star of David.
At the time, Zentai was a 23-year-old officer in the pro-Nazi Hungarian military. He claims he left Budapest with his regiment on Nov. 8, 1944, the day before the murder.
Zentai's alleged victim was assaulted for not wearing the yellow Star of David
Zentai and two fellow soldiers allegedly tortured and killed Balazs then disposed of the body in the Danube River. His two alleged accomplices were jailed over the murder in the 1940s.
Zentai, who emigrated in 1950, is ranked seventh on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of top 10 World War II war criminals still at large. Hungary requested his extradition in 2005.
Family appeals to Australia
Outside the Perth court, Zentai's son, Gabriel Steiner, said his father was not in Budapest on the day of the killing.
"This is home," Steiner said. "He made a commitment to become an Australian citizen 50 years ago, and I think Australia needs to make some commitment to him as a citizen as well."
Zentai's family has argued that he may not survive the extradition to Hungary due to frail health.
"We have faith in the Australian legal system but have no trust in the Hungarian government, who are willing to pursue an innocent man to this extent," he said.
A final decision to extradite Zentai to Hungary will be made by Australia's Attorney-General Robert McClelland, based on court rulings.