Hungary charges Nazi-era suspect with war crimes

USA Today  July 18, 2012

Laszlo Csatary leaves the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office after he was questioned by detectives about alleged war crimes during World War II. / By Bea Kallos, AP

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A 97-year-old Hungarian man suspected of abusing Jews and helping deport thousands of them during the Holocaust was taken into custody Wednesday, questioned and charged with war crimes, prosecutors said.

The case of Laszlo Csatary was brought to the attention of Hungarian authorities by the Simon Wiesenthal Center last year.

Prosecutors decided to charge Csatary with the “unlawful torture of human beings,” a war crime that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Csatary’s lawyer, Gabor Horvath B., said that a judge, acting on a request from prosecutors, ordered his client to be confined to house arrest for a maximum of 30 days.

Horvath B. said he had appealed the ruling, which also opened the way for authorities to confiscate Csatary’s passport.

Tibor Ibolya, Budapest’s acting chief prosecutor, said Csatary recounted his Holocaust-era activities to authorities during questioning, saying he was following orders and carrying out his duty.

“The suspect denied having committed the crimes,” Ibolya said, adding that during his testimony Csatary’s “attitude toward some of his fellow men of a certain religion … is not what we would consider normal.”

Prosecutors detained Csatary in an early morning sweep because they were worried he may try to flee. He has lived at least in two separate Budapest apartments during the last few months.

“We took Csatary into custody at dawn from an address to which he had no connection until now,” said Ibolya. “He cooperated with investigators.”

Csatary’s lawyer said his client had moved to a new location because he was tired of being badgered. On Monday, 40 people held a protest outside one of Csatary’s purported homes but he was nowhere to be seen.

According to a summary of the case released by prosecutors, Csatary was a police officer in the Slovakian city of Kosice, at a time part of Hungary.

In May 1944, Csatary was named chief of an internment camp at a Kosice brick factory from where 12,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps. Authorities said Csatary was present when the trains were loaded and sent on their way.

Csatary “regularly” used a dog whip against the Jewish detainees “without any special reasons and irrespective of the assaulted people’s sex, age or health condition,” the prosecutors’ statement said.

As one train departed with some 80 Jews crammed into one railcar, Csatary refused a request by one of the Jews to cut holes in the walls of the wagon to let more air in, the statement said.

“We took into consideration the severity of his acts, but we should not forget that the suspect is due the presumption of innocence,” Ibolya said. “In our estimation, he will not be able to escape.”

Ibolya said considering Csatary’s age, he was in good physical and mental condition, although experts had yet to examine him.

Csatary was been convicted in absentia for war crimes in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and sentenced to death. He arrived in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia the following year, became a Canadian citizen in 1955 and worked as an art dealer in Montreal.

In October 1997, Canadian authorities said the 82-year-old had left the country, apparently bound for Europe, before they had the chance to decide his fate in a deportation hearing. His citizenship had been revoked in August and the deportation order was based on his obtaining citizenship by giving false information.

Canadian authorities alleged that Csatary had failed to provide information concerning his collaboration with Nazi occupation forces while serving with the Royal Hungarian Police and his participation in the internment and deportation to concentration camps of thousands of Hungarian Jews.

Ibolya said the investigation into the Csatary case was continuing and that prosecutors were waiting for information from Israel, including the possible testimony of survivors, and Canada.

“I expect this case to continue for months, even taking into account that we are treating it as one that we would like to conclude as soon as possible,” Ibolya said.

In Israel, Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, applauded the arrest.

“When you look at a person like this, you shouldn’t see an old frail person, but think of a man who at the height of his physical powers devoted all his energy to murdering or persecuting and murdering innocent men, women and children,” Zuroff told the AP.

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July 16. 2012
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TOP NAZI WAR CRIMINAL LOCATED IN HUNGARY –

(AFP) – July 16, 2012

JERUSALEM — The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre has confirmed that Laszlo Csatary, accused of complicity in the killings of 15,700 Jews, had been tracked down to the Hungarian capital.

“I confirm that Laszlo Csatary has been identified and found in Budapest,” the centre’s director Efraim Zuroff told AFP.

Ten months ago an informer had provided information that allowed them to locate Csatary, 97, in Budapest, Zuroff told AFP by phone. They had paid the informer the $25,000 promised for such information, he added.

In September last year, they had passed on their information to the prosecutor’s office in Budapest.

A statement released Sunday by the centre said Zuroff had “last week submitted new evidence to the prosecutor in Budapest regarding crimes committed during World War II by its No 1 Most Wanted suspect Laszlo Csatary.”

The centre said the evidence “related to Csatary’s key role in the deportation of approximately 300 Jews from Kosice to Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, where almost all were murdered in the summer of 1941.”

Budapest’s assistant prosecutor general, Jeno Varga, said: “An investigation is under way. The prosecutor’s office will study the information received.”

But Zuroff said in the Centre’s statement: “This new evidence strengthens the already very strong case against Csatary and reinforces our insistence that he be held accountable for his crimes.

“The passage of time in no way diminishes his guilt and old age should not afford protection for Holocaust perpetrators.”

Zuroff told AFP that the British tabloid daily The Sun had photographed and filmed Csatary, having acted on the information that the Wiesenthal Center had released last September.

The online edition of the newspapers announced on Sunday it had found and identified Csatary.

When its reporters confronted him on his doorstep, he had denied any crimes and slammed the door in their faces, the paper reported.

This was the fourth time that The Sun had cooperated with the Centre to put pressure on officials who were dragging their feet to bring Nazi fugitives to justice, said Zuroff.

The Wiesenthal Centre has urged Hungarian prosecutors to put Csatary on trial.

They say he served during World War II as a senior Hungarian police officer in the Slovakian city of Kosice, then under Hungarian rule.

He was complicit in the deportations of thousands of Jews from Kosice and its environs to the Auschwitz death camp in the spring of 1944.

Csatary had treated the Jews in the ghetto with cruelty, whipping women and forcing them to dig holes with their bare hands, he added.

In 1948, a Czech court condemned him to death after a trial held in his absence. He had fled to Canada and had worked as an art dealer using a false identity, before being unmasked in 1995 and forced to flee.

WIESENTHAL CENTER GIVES HUNGARIAN OFFICIALS INFORMATION ON HOLOCAUST-ERA WAR CRIMES SUSPECT

By Associated Press, Published: July 15 

BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Simon Wiesenthal Center says it has given Hungarian prosecutors information about a Holocaust-era war crimes suspect believed to be living in Budapest.

The Jerusalem office of the Wiesenthal Center said Sunday that it provided “new evidence” to prosecutors about Laszlo Csatary, who currently tops the organization’s list of most wanted war criminals.

According to the Jewish human rights group, Csatary was police chief in the Slovakian city of Kosice, at the time part of Hungary, and played a “key role” in the deportation of 300 Jews in the summer of 1941 to Ukraine, where they were killed.

Csatary also is suspected of helping organize the 1944 deportation of some 15,700 Jews to the Auschwitz death camp.Hungarian prosecutors have said they are gathering information about the case.

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