Skip to main content

Australia's highest court blocks extradition of Nazi war crime suspect

By Alexis Lai, CNN
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
Alleged WWII war criminal Charles Zentai (C) leaves an extradition proceeding on July 19, 2005.
Alleged WWII war criminal Charles Zentai (C) leaves an extradition proceeding on July 19, 2005.
  • Australia's highest court rejected extradition request from Hungary for suspected Nazi war criminal
  • Charles Zentai allegedly beat Jewish teen to death in 1944 for failing to wear Star of David
  • High Court ruled against request because "war crime" was not legal offence in Hungary in 1944
  • A naturalized Australian citizen, Zentai has maintained his innocence

(CNN) -- Australia's High Court on Wednesday rejected an extradition request from Hungary for a suspected Nazi war criminal, ending a legal battle that began in 2005.

Charles Zentai and two fellow Hungarian soldiers allegedly beat a Jewish teenager to death in November 1944 for failing to wear the yellow Star of David. They are thought to have thrown the victim's body into the Danube River in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

In a 5-1 decision, the court ruled that Zentai could not be extradited because "war crime" did not exist as a legal offence in Hungary in 1944, according to Australian media reports.

In doing so, it upheld a 2010 Australian federal court ruling against an extradition order approved by former home affairs minister Brendan O'Connor in 2009. Hungary issued an international arrest warrant and extradition request for Zentai in 2005.

Zentai, now 90, has maintained his innocence, arguing that he left Nazi-occupied Budapest before the crime occurred.

He was tracked down by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2004 as part of the Jewish human rights organization's "Operation: Last Chance." As of April, he is listed among the organization's top ten most wanted Nazi criminals, for participating in "manhunts, persecution, and murder of Jews in Budapest in 1944."

A resident of Perth in Western Australia, he has reportedly been living in the country since 1950 and is a naturalized Australian citizen.

In 2010: War crimes suspect averts extradition from Australia

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.