The Hungarian Nazi war crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary is to be placed under house arrest for 30 days following questioning, his lawyer said. The 97-year-old had been on top of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's wanted list.
Accused by the Simon Wiesenthal Center of helping to deport as many as 16,000 Jews to their deaths from the Kosice ghetto in present-day Slovakia between 1941 and 1944, Csatary has protested that he is innocent, prosecutors said after arresting him on Wednesday.
"He denies being guilty of the crimes he is accused of," state prosecutor Tibor Ibolya said. "One of his arguments in his defense is that he was obeying orders."
Csatary was detained for questioning and prosecutors have ordered him to be placed under house arrest for 30 days.
In 1948, Csatary was sentenced in absentia to death by a Czechoslovak court, but he escaped to Canada, where he lived and worked under a new name before being stripped of his citizenship after authorities found that he had failed to provide information about his collaboration with the Nazi occupation.
According to Canadian authorities, Csatary, then 82, left the country in 1997, before they had the chance to decide his fate in a deportation hearing.
He ended up in Budapest, where he had lived freely ever since, until the Wiesenthal Center alerted Hungarian authorities, providing them with evidence it said implicated Csatary in war crimes.
Csatary's "attitude toward some of his fellow men of a certain religion ... is not what we would consider normal," Ibolya said.
mkg/ng (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)