Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The world's number one Nazi war crimes suspect has been arrested in Budapest.
He was taken into custody in the Hungarian capital earlier today.
He is accused of helping to organise the deportation of 15,700 Jews to the Auschwitz death camp during the Second World War.
A spokesman for the public prosecutors office in Budapest today said: 'Csatary has been taken into custody.'
He corrected an earlier statement that had said the elderly man had been charged with war crimes. Further details are expected at a news conference later today.
Csatary - full name Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary - is number one on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's wanted list.
During the war, he was a senior police officer in Kosice, which at that time was occupied by Nazi ally Hungary and is now in Slovakia.
In 1948, a Czechoslovakian court condemned Csatary, who the Wiesenthal Center said was in charge of the Jewish ghetto in Kosice, to death in absentia.
But he had made it to Canada, where he worked as an art dealer in Montreal and Toronto until in the 1990s he was stripped of his citizenship there and was forced to flee.
He ended up in Budapest where he has lived undisturbed ever since until the Wiesenthal Center alerted Hungarian authorities last year, providing it with evidence it said implicated Csatary in war crimes.
He was then tracked down by the Sun newspaper, who photographed him after confronting him at his front door.
Acting on the information provided by the Wiesenthal Center, which was supplemented by fresh evidence last week over the deportation of some 300 other Jews in 1941, prosecutors began an investigation in September.
A statement by prosecutors on Monday, however, appeared to limit the chances that the old man will end up in the dock.
The events 'took place 68 years ago in an area that now falls under the jurisdiction of another country - which also with regard to the related international conventions raises several investigative and legal problems.'
Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter, said on Sunday that he has been 'very upset and very frustrated' about the lack of action by Hungarian authorities.
The fact that Csatary lived freely in Hungary for some 15 years and the lack of progress by prosecutors also added to worries about the direction of the EU member state under right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Almost exactly a year ago, a court in Budapest acquitted Hungarian Sandor Kepiro, 97, of charges of ordering the execution of over 30 Jews and Serbs in the Serbian town of Novi Sad in January 1942.
The Wiesenthal Center, which had also listed Kepiro as the most wanted Nazi war criminal and helped bring him to court, described the verdict as an 'outrageous miscarriage of justice'.
Six weeks later Kepiro died.
Recent months have seen something of a public rehabilitation of controversial figures, most notably of Miklos Horthy, Hungary's dictator from 1920 until falling out with his erstwhile ally Adolf Hitler in 1944.
Anti-Semitic writers like Albert Wass and Jozsef Nyiro, a keen supporter of the brutal Arrow Cross regime installed in power by the Nazis in 1944, have also been reintroduced into the curriculum for schools.
Other incidents include the verbal assault of a 90-year-old rabbi, Jozsef Schweitzer, when a stranger came up to him in the street and said 'I hate all Jews!'
The decision by the speaker of the Hungarian parliament, Orban ally Laszlo Kover, to attend a ceremony in May honouring Nyiro, prompted Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel to return Hungary's highest honour in disgust.
Holocaust survivor Mr Wiesel, 83, said: 'It has become increasingly clear that Hungarian authorities are encouraging the whitewashing of tragic and criminal episodes in Hungary's past.'
The speaker of Israel's Knesset followed this up by withdrawing an invitation to Kover to a ceremony this week in Israel paying tribute to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved Jews during the war.
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