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War crime suspect under house arrest

July 20th, 2012

Far right and left wing observers seem to agree that the prosecutor has put a suspected war criminal under house arrest as a result of international pressure. The former contend that Mr Csatáry’s rights have been infringed, while the latter blame the authorities for not acting sooner.

The “National Rights Protection Foundation”, whose main personalities are two far right Hungarian MEPs Krisztina Morvai and Tamás Gaudi-Nagy, complain that the public discussion of the alleged war crimes committed by László Csatáry violate his right to the presumption of innocence.

Mr Csatáry was the commander of a ghetto in Kassa (Košice n Slovak) and is reported to have excelled in the maltreatment of the deportees before they were transported to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps. After the war he emigrated to Canada. He left there in 1997 when the authorities began to investigate his war record. He told Magyar Hírlap that he then asked the Hungarian authorities whether he could safely move to Hungary and received a positive reply. He lived peacefully in Budapest from 1997 on, until the Wiesenthal Centre traced him last year and informed the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office about his past. The Prosecutor then asked for information from Slovakia where he was condemned to death in 1948, as well as from Canada. Meanwhile, the Wiesenthal Centre began to issue impatient statements about the matter and informed the Sun about it. The London tabloid found Mr Csatáry in Budapest and a few days later the authorities took Csatáry briefly into custody, before putting him under house arrest, in view of his advanced age (97).

The National Rights Protection Foundation accuses Wiesenthal Centre director Efraim Zuroff of aiming at driving the old man to death “without the risk of facing prosecution on false charges,” since the potential plaintiff would be dead before he could launch his complaint. ”A final verdict is in fact highly improbable during the defendant’s lifetime,” the Foundation argues.

Press commentators, however, do not believe that the charges levelled against Csatáry are unfounded. Népszabadság, on the contrary, suggests that the prosecutor should have at least interrogated him well before the case drew almost unprecedented international attention. In a front page editorial, Népszabadság suspects the Prosecutor called an international press conference on Wednesday in order to convince the public that he was not acting under pressure. The left-wing commentator would have found that claim more convincing had the prosecutor acted earlier.

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