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War Crimes Suspect Surrenders to Police in Australia

By Phil Mercer
23 October 2009

An Australian man accused of killing a Jewish youth in Hungary during the Second World War is in jail, awaiting possible extradition. Charles Zentai denies the murder accusations and has been fighting extradition to Hungary for several years.

Charles Zentai, 88, is accused of beating a Jewish teenager to death in November 1944 in Budapest. He was serving as a soldier in the army of his native Hungary, which was allied at the time with Nazi Germany.

Zentai surrendered to police in Western Australia Thursday after exhausting legal efforts to stay out of jail while his case is decided.

Zentai, who moved to Australia after the war, denies the murder accusation, saying that he left the Hungarian capital the day before the teenager was killed. He has undertaken a series of challenges since being ruled eligible for extradition last year.

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he is worried about what the future might hold.

"I'm concerned about what's going to happen to me there in the first instance," he said. "Where are they going to put me? Which kind of a jail or what sort of a treatment I've going to have? What sort of protection or representation I'm going to get?"

The accusations were made by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish human rights organization known for tracking down suspected Nazi war criminals. Rights activists say it is time for Zentai to answer the charges in court back in Hungary.

According to the allegations, Zentai murdered the young Jewish man because he was not wearing a yellow star, as required by the Nazis.

Zentai was living in the western Australian city of Perth before the Hungarian government began extradition proceedings against him in 2005.

His lawyers say that key witness statements are tainted and may have been made under coercion or the threat of torture.

The Australian government is considering the extradition request.

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