Australia seeks to extradite WWII murder suspect

Charles Zentai, 89, is wanted in his native Hungary in connection with murder of a Jewish teenager for failing to wear a yellow star.

January 5, 2011 12:42
1 minute read.
Charles Zentai [file]

Charles Zentai nazi suspect 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

ADELAIDE, Australia — The Australian government has appealed a court ruling barring the extradition of a man wanted in his native Hungary in connection with the murder of a Jewish teenager during World War II. Charles Zentai, 89, has been fighting extradition since 2005.

The Australian government approved Zentai's extradition in 2009 but the Federal Court ruled last year that the extradition law did not allow a suspect to be handed over before charges are in place.

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Background: An important step forward in a bizarre case

The federal government lodged an appeal of the Federal Court's ruling on Tuesday in Perth, a spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. She did not explain why the government sought to continue the extradition process.

Zentai's son, Ernie Steiner, said his father and family were devastated by the government's decision to appeal.

"It's just ridiculous, it's a total waste of time," Steiner said, saying prosecutors in 2005 had advised the federal police that there was not sufficient evidence to mount a case against Zentai.

"I think the Commonwealth wants to be seen to be doing something under the terms of the extradition agreements," he said.

Hungary says Zentai is suspected of being one of three men who killed a Jewish teenager in Budapest in 1944 for failing to wear a star identifying him as a Jew.

Zentai, who migrated to Australia in 1950 and later became a citizen, says he is innocent and was not even in Budapest at the time.

Zentai has not been charged with a crime in Hungary. The country's Justice Ministry has said it believes the extradition agreement between Hungary and Australia says that suspicion of a crime is enough to warrant the extradition.

"It's just coming at a huge personal cost to my father," Steiner said. "He's devastated. He's trying to remain strong. We all are."

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