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Nazi suspect acquitted

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Kepiro, 97, was accused of rounding up and killing Jews and Serbs
  • The court found there was not enough evidence to convict him
  • Kepiro maintained his innocence saying he "always lived a decent life"

(CNN) -- A Hungarian court Monday acquitted one of the world's most wanted Nazi war suspects, saying there was not enough evidence to convict him of slaughtering three dozen people during World War II.

Sandor Kepiro, 97, was accused of ordering the rounding up and execution of 36 Jews and Serbs in Novi Sad, Serbia, in 1942.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Court of Budapest said Kepiro was acquitted due to lack of evidence and that the judge will provide "detailed reasoning of the verdict" on Tuesday.

Kepiro, a former officer in the Hungarian gendarmerie, protested his innocence. When the trial began in early May, he told the court, "I am not guilty, and I have always lived a decent life."

He denied having killed anyone during a raid on Novi Sad, instead claiming to have saved the lives of five people.

He said he did not know Jews or Serbs were the targets of the raid, and that as far as he knew it was against anti-Nazi "partisans."

Hungary sided with the Nazis early in World War II. In January 1942, its troops killed about 3,000 Jews and Serbs in Novi Sad, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia. Hungary had annexed the territory at the time. Kepiro said he never participated in or saw any deportation of Jews.

Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, tracked down Kepiro in Budapest in 2006.

"Time does not diminish the guilt of the killers and old age should not protect those who committed such heinous crimes," he said.

Kepiro sued Zuroff for libel for calling him a war criminal. A Budapest court acquitted Zuroff in May.

Journalist Fanny Facsar contributed to this report