The Simon Wiesenthal Center urged the Hungarian government on Thursday to arrest a top Hungarian war criminal who was twice convicted in Hungarian courts for war crimes during World War II but was never punished.
The war criminal, Dr. Sandor Kepiro, 92, who was recently discovered in Budapest as a result of the organization's Operation Last Chance project, has been living undisturbed there for the last decade after hiding for almost half a century in Argentina, the center's chief Nazi-hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, said at a press conference in the Hungarian capital.
Kepiro was convicted in 1944 and again two years later in absentia for his role in the murder of some 1,000 civilians in the city of Novi Sad between January 21 and 23, 1942, when he served as a gendarme with the Hungarian army, Zuroff said.
Eighty percent of the victims were Jews, and the rest were Serbs, he said.
In 1944, after details of the massacres in the region - in which a total of 3,300 civilians were murdered - were revealed, Kepiro was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
But after the German invasion of Hungary, Kepiro was cleared by a Nazi-dominated military tribunal, which restored his rank.
He went on to become the highest ranking gendarmerie officer in the city and participated in the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz, the Wiesenthal Center said.
After the war, Kepiro escaped to Austria where he lived for three years.
In 1946, he was tried in absentia by a Communist people's court and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Two years later, he moved to Argentina where he lived for nearly 50 years before returning to Budapest in the nineties.
Kepiro denied the allegations against him on Thursday, telling a press conference that while he was present at the Novi Sad massacres, it was Hungarian soldiers - and not gendarmes like him - who did the shooting.
"Kepiro is the most prominent unpunished Hungarian war criminal still alive today," Zuroff said.
"People like Kepiro are the moral monsters who were fully aware of the illegality and immorality of the orders they received but carried them out regardless," he said.
Zuroff slammed what he called the Hungarian government's "kafkaesque treatment" of the case since he brought it to their attention two months ago.