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War crimes suspect averts extradition from Australia

By the CNN Wire Staff
Charles Zentai, wanted in Hungary for murdering a Jewish teen, avoided extradition after an Australian court ruled in his favor.
Charles Zentai, wanted in Hungary for murdering a Jewish teen, avoided extradition after an Australian court ruled in his favor.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Charles Zentai of Perth, Australia, is accused of killing a Jewish teen
  • Jewish human rights groups say Zentai was a Nazi collaborator
  • Zentai has been fighting extradition to Hungary for five years
  • Judge ruled in his favor for a number of reasons including humanitarian grounds
RELATED TOPICS
  • Australia
  • War Crimes
  • Hungary

(CNN) -- A man wanted in Hungary for the torture and killing of a Jewish teenager during World War II averted extradition Friday after an Australian federal court ruled in his favor, an Australian news agency reported.

Hungary issued a warrant for Perth resident Charles Zentai, 88, in 2005. He is suspected of being a Nazi collaborator who killed Peter Balazs in Budapest in November 1944, the Australian Associated Press said.

Zentai is on the list of most wanted Nazis compiled by the Simon Weisenthal Center, which first discovered Zentai in Australia in 2004. The Jewish human rights organization accuses Zentai of participating in manhunts of Jews as well as persecution and murder.

But Australian Judge Neil McKerracher found several problems with the extradition order, AAP said.

He ruled that it would be inhumane to send Zentai back to Hungary, given his old age and poor health. His family released medical records that showed Zentai had suffered a stroke and has numerous broken ribs, CNN affiliate ABC News reported.

The judge also said that the war crime charge was nonexistent in Hungary at the time of Zentai's alleged offenses and that the Australian home affairs minister lacked jurisdiction to make an extradition decision.

Zentai, who had been fighting the extradition for five years, said the process had put him and his family "through hell" and cost him his life savings, AAP said.

"I have lost practically everything," he told reporters.

His son, Ernie Steiner, said the Australian government owes the family an apology for a "huge injustice."

"They were so keen to represent the interests of Hungary they forgot about the fact they had an Australian citizen that was being unfairly treated," Steiner said.

 
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