Australia war crimes effort 'dismal': Nazi hunter

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre on Wednesday slammed the Australian High Court for refusing to extradite to Hungary a man accused of the 1944 murder of a Jewish teenager.

"It signals a dismal conclusion to Australia’s totally unsuccessful efforts to bring to justice any of the numerous Nazi war criminals who found refuge in the country," the centre's Israel director Efraim Zuroff said in a statement.

"Today is a sad day for Australia and for justice, but most of all for the Nazis’ victims, their families and those who empathise with their suffering," he wrote.

Charles Zentai, 90, was allegedly one of three Nazi-backed Hungarian soldiers who tortured and killed 18-year-old Peter Balazs in Budapest. He has always maintained his innocence.

On Wednesday, he won a legal battle against extradition to Hungary, in a move which allows him to stay in Australia, where he has citizenship.

Hungary first requested the extradition of Zentai in 2005 for the offence of "war crime", namely a fatal assault on Peter Balazs, 18, in November 1944 for not wearing a yellow Star of David.

"Mr Zentai cannot be surrendered for extradition because the offence of 'war crime' did not exist under Hungarian law at the time of Mr Zentai's alleged criminal conduct," a spokeswoman for Australia's home affairs ministry said earlier on Wednesday, confirming the decision was final.

The Wiesenthal Centre "noted that numerous Nazi war criminals had been extradited from countries of refuge to stand trial in Germany for crimes which had not yet been categorised as such when they were committed.

"Today’s unfortunate decision to refuse the Hungarian extradition request appears to ignore numerous legal precedents which in the past facilitated the prosecution of the leaders of the Third Reich and additional Nazi war criminals," it added.

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