A 98-year-old man has been charged with Nazi war crimes, with Hungarian prosecutors accusing him of executing and torturing Jews when he was a police chief under German occupation in the Second World War.
Laszlo Csatary, who denies the charges, is also claimed to have overseen the deportation of 15,700 Jewish detainees to concentration camps. He has been under house arrest in Budapest since July last year.
According to his indictment, in 1944 Csatary ran an internment camp in the Slovakian city of Kosice, which was then part of Hungary, where he regularly beat Jewish prisoners with a dog-whip.
He is also accused of refusing to allow ventilation holes to be cut in a train carriage that held 80 Jews being deported.
Csatary has been top of the wanted list of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish organisation dedicated to bringing suspected Nazi war criminals to justice.
He was sentenced to death in his absence by a Slovakian court in 1948, having fled to Canada where he worked as an art dealer until his citizenship was revoked in 1997. He then made his way to Budapest, where he lived undisturbed until the centre brought him to the attention of Hungarian authorities.
In Slovakia Csatary’s sentence has been changed to life in prison, and Lucia Kollarova, a spokeswoman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, said they wanted him to go to prison there.
“We would prefer the war criminal Laszlo Csatary to be extradited to Slovakia,” Kollarova said. “We don't believe that given his age there is a realistic chance [he would be imprisoned in Hungary]”.
Bettina Bagoly, a spokeswoman for the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office, said: “He is charged with the unlawful execution and torture of people, committing war crimes partly as a perpetrator, partly as an accomplice.”
She said Slovakia had made no request for extradition, and the trial is expected to start within the next three months.