Verdict expected for alleged Hungarian war criminal

Dr. Sandor Kepiro, 97, is on trail for war crimes relating to role in massacre of hundreds near Serbian city of Novi Sad in January 1942.

Sandor Kepiro 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sandor Kepiro 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The verdict for suspected war criminal Dr. Sandor Kepiro, a Hungarian gendarmerie officer during the Second World War, will be heard on Monday in the Buda District Court in Budapest.
Kepiro, 97, is charged with war crimes relating to his role in the massacre of civilian hostages, mostly of Serb, Jewish and Roma ethnicity, in and near the Serbian city of Novi Sad in January 1942.
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Kepiro was top of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s most-wanted war criminals and was discovered living in Budapest by the center’s chief Nazi-hunter Dr.
Ephraim Zuroff in 2006. He may be one of the last war criminals from the Holocaust era to stand trial.
“This is the first case of a Nazi war criminal who was put on trial in Hungary since the transition to democracy,” Zuroff told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“In a country like Hungary where local Nazi collaborators were actively complicit in carrying out atrocities during the Holocaust, such a trial has enormous significance.
“If we add the current situation in which the extreme nationalist party Jobbik garnered close to 17 percent of the vote in the national election and managed to get several members into the national parliament, the results of this trial become even more significant.”
As many as 1,250 people were killed in the Novi Sad massacre, which was carried out by Hungarian military and gendarmerie forces.
Hungary was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II.
The Hungarian prosecution, which is calling for Kepiro to be given a prison sentence, has said that Kepiro was directly responsible for the death of 36 people, 30 of whom were loaded into a transport vehicle on Kepiro’s orders and taken away and shot.
The Novi Sad massacre took place from January 21 to 23, 1942, and was carried out by Hungarian forces who formed patrols to round up Jews, Serbs and Roma. They were gathered on the banks of the Danube River and shot. The river was frozen over so the Hungarian forces had to fire artillery shells at the ice in order to dispose of the bodies.
Approximately 800 of those killed were Jews.
Kepiro was convicted in Hungary in 1944 for his participation in the atrocities but his sentence was quashed by the Fascist government that took control in March that year. After the war, Kepiro fled to Argentina and was tried in absentia for war crimes by the Communist government in Hungary, found guilty and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
He returned to Budapest in 1996 but was not arrested.
At the opening of the trial in May, Kepiro claimed that he was innocent and was being tried “on trumped-up charges.”
The Novi Sad massacre was part of a larger operation carried out by Hungarian troops in northern Serbia in which more than 4,000 Serbs, Jews and Roma were murdered.