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Hungary charges former officer with wartime massacre in Serbia

Hungarian prosecutors have charged wartime paramilitary officer Sandor Kepiro with involvement in murdering up to 1,200 Serbian civilians. Hungary has been criticized for proceeding too slowly with the prosecution.

Victims of the massacre

Jews, Serbs and Roma were among the victims

Prosecutors in Budapest have charged a former Hungarian paramilitary officer with war crimes in the World War Two massacre of up to 1,200 civilians in neighboring Serbia.

Sandor Kepiro

Kepiro emigrated to Argentina before returning to Hungary

The decision to charge Sandor Kepiro follows pressure from the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which continues to search for Nazi war criminals around the world. The group has Kepiro at the top of its list of most wanted war criminals for alleged atrocities in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina.

"In January 1942 the defendant, as an officer of the gendarme, participated in the illegal massacre of unarmed and innocent people in Vojvodina," said Gabriella Skoda, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors' office.

Kepiro has been indicted for involvement in the murder of more than one thousand civilians in "the massacre of Novi Sad," named after the city where the killings took place.

Prosecutors claim Kepiro, who turns 97 this week, ordered troops to round up and shoot civilians between January 21 and January 23, 1942. They claim that the Hungarian forces were responsible for the murder of as many as 1,200 people, mainly Jews, Serbs and Roma.

On Monday, Kepiro denied he committed any crimes and said he was bed-ridden and wanted to return to his family in Argentina as an innocent man.

Whereabouts revealed by group

Kepiro escaped to Argentina after the war, but in 2006, the Simon Wiesenthal Center revealed that he was living in Budapest and has since pressed for him to be prosecuted.

Banks of the Danube, the city of Novi Sad

The killings took place by the Danube near Novi Sad

Hungarian authorities say that the delay in going forward with the case has been partly due to bureaucratic difficulties.

In a report in January, the Wiesenthal Centre had cited Hungary's failure to act as the single most disappointing case of prosecution of war criminals.

Kepiro's alleged crimes happened when Hungary was a close ally of Nazi Germany. Hungarians also participated in killing some 600,000 Hungarian Jews and 50,000 Roma in the Holocaust. The country's Csendorseg, or gendarmes, were later disbanded for their role in events.

Author: Stefan Bos / rc
Editor: Nicole Goebel

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