SYDNEY — A 90-year-old man accused of being a Nazi war criminal on Wednesday won his fight to stay in Australia, after the High Court blocked his extradition to Hungary.
Charles Zentai was allegedly one of three Nazi-backed Hungarian soldiers who tortured and murdered a Jewish teenager in Budapest in 1944, a crime for which he has always maintained his innocence.
The Australian government agreed to send Zentai to Hungary to face the allegations in late 2009, but he fought a legal battle against the move and the Federal Court eventually overturned his extradition.
The government appealed the decision to the High Court, but it dismissed the challenge Wednesday because the offence of “war crime” did not exist in Hungary at the time of the alleged events.
It said the then Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor “was precluded from surrendering Mr Zentai for extradition unless he was satisfied that the offence of ‘war crime’ was an offence against the law of Hungary on 8 November 1944”.
Hungary first requested the extradition of Zentai, an Australian citizen, in 2005 for the offence of “war crime”, namely a fatal assault on a young Jewish man.
Zentai’s family have said that the elderly man, who has lived in Australia for almost six decades, was willing to answer questions from Hungarian police about the murder but did not want to leave the country.