17 August 2011
The protracted legal battle to extradite the 89-year-old Hungarian-born Charles Zentai, a resident of Perth, who is wanted in Hungary over the 1944 murder of a Jewish teenager, is to continue, with the case being referred back to Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor. Last year, Australia’s Federal Court had ruled that the government had made an error in law by agreeing to extradite Zentai to Hungary.
The public prosecutor appealed that ruling, and the court now upheld parts of the challenge. Zentai's lawyer said that O'Connor now needed to determine what constitutes a war crime before the case could continue. A spokeswoman for the minister told the news service ‘J-Wire’: “The Full Federal Court allowed two of the three grounds of the Commonwealth’s appeal against a decision in 2010 to set aside the minister’s determination to surrender Mr. Zentai to Hungary to face prosecution for a war crime.”
Zentai, who has been fighting to stay in Australia for more than six years, has protested his innocence. His son Ernie voiced optimism that his father would eventually win his battle to remain in Australia. "We're still in their batting for an innocent man, that's how we feel and we won't let it go. If they were willing to look at the issue of innocence we would have arrived at the conclusion a long time ago,” he was quoted by Australian media as saying. Zentai can lodge a further appeal in the High Court. A spokeswoman for the minister said the government was now considering the full Federal Court's decision.
Peter Balazs was an 18-year-old Jewish teenager. In 1944, he was spotted in a Budapest tram not wearing the mandatory Yellow Star. According to the prosecution, Zentai, was serving in the Hungarian Army at the time, dragged him from the tram to army barracks, where he was slowly beaten to death in front other prisoners.
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