Zentai stroke prevents appearance at extradition appeal

An 89-year-old accused Nazi war criminal living in Australia suffered a stroke that prevented him from appearing in court to hear the latest appeal in his long-running extradition case.

Charles (Karoly) Zentai was due in the Federal Court in Perth Monday to hear an appeal by the federal government, which is arguing that a court decision last year that spared Zentai from extradition to his native Hungary was incorrect. the court on Tuesday agreed to reserve an opinion.

Hungary has requested Zentai be extradited for the alleged murder in 1944 of Peter Balazs, an 18-year-old Jew who was allegedly killed because he was not wearing the mandatory yellow Star of David.

Since the case first surfaced in 2005, Zentai has strenuously denied the allegations, saying he was not in Budapest on the day of the incident.

Zentai’s son, Ernie Steiner, said the stress of the legal action caused the stroke May 13 and that his father would not survive extradition.

“It would kill him,” Steiner told reporters on Monday. “The stress of even something like today is enormous, the concern, the worry.

“It’s inhumane, when all of this could be handled in Australia. They could send people over here to question him,” he said.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor approved Zentai’s extradition in 2009, but the ruling was overturned in last July by Justice Neil McKerracher, who ruled that O’Connor’s decision was outside his jurisdiction.

Australian government appeals Zentai ruling

The Australian government is appealing a court ruling that spared an alleged Nazi war criminal from being extradited to Hungary.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor approved the extradition of Charles Zentai in 2009, but a Federal Court judge overturned the decision last year.

The government on Tuesday appealed the ruling that said Zentai, 89, of Perth, was not eligible for extradition.

Zentai, a former soldier in the Hungarian army, is wanted for questioning in the murder of an 18-year-old Jewish man in Nazi-occupied Budapest in 1944.

He has vehemently denied the claims since they surfaced in 2005 following a campaign mounted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Zentai says he left Budapest on Nov. 7, 1944—the day before Peter Balazs was murdered.

The Wiesenthal Center’s spokesman, Efraim Zuroff, said the appeal “is the correct response by the Australian Government, which should be commended for its perseverance in this case. His fate should be decided in a court in Hungary.”

The government’s appeal is expected to be heard by the full bench of the Federal Court.