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Nazi war crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary dead at 98

Laszlo Csatary, who was the Simon Wiesenthal Center's most-wanted Nazi war criminal, has died at 98. He'd been indicted by Hungarian authorities last June for his role in deporting thousands of Jews during World War II.

Csatary's died in a Budapest hospital over the weekend, his attorney confirmed on Monday.

"He died on Saturday morning, he had been treated for medical issues for some time but contracted pneumonia, from which he died," Gabor Horvath B. said.

Holocaust links

Csatary denied the charges against him that he had been "actively involved in and assisted the deportations" of Jews from a ghetto in Kassa, now known as Kosice, in 1944.

He was sentenced to death in absentia in 1948 by a Czechoslovakian court and lived for decades in Canada working as an art dealer until he was stripped of his citizenship in the 1990s. He later returned to his native Hungary where he lived for 15 years before being investigated by authorities on the basis of information from the Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization that works to have Nazi war criminals brought to justice.

Csatary's location was revealed by the Wiesenthal Center last year, and he was official charged by Hungarian authorities soon after. Prosecutors alleged that the former police officer "regularly beat the interned Jews with his bare hands and whipped them with a dog-whip without any special reasons, regardless of their sex, age or health."

He affirmed his innocence at a closed-door hearing and has since been under house arrest. Proceedings were suspended last month on grounds of double jeopardy that he had already been convicted of the charges brought in the case. But last week a higher court ruled that the proceedings could move forward after prosecutors appealed.

In March a Slovakian court commuted his 1948 death sentence to life imprisonment.

String of arrests

Csatary was one of a number of high-profile people pursued by European authorities for their role in the Holocaust.

Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk was deported from the United States to Germany in 2009, where he was sentenced to five years in prison for his complicity in some 28,000 murders as a Sobibor guard. He died in a nursing home last year aged 91.

In May a 93-year-old alleged former Auschwitz guard, Hans Lipschis, was arrested in Germany, but he has reportedly insisted he worked only as a cook.

dr/hc (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)