Slovak court defers top Nazi war crimes suspect hearing

Published July 11, 2013

| AFP

A Slovak court on Thursday postponed a hearing into war crimes against the world's most-wanted living Nazi suspect when he failed to appear, a spokeswoman said.

Laszlo Csatary, 98, a former police officer, is charged with crimes against humanity during World War II in what is now Slovakia for sending thousands of Jews to their deaths.

Csatary remains under house arrest in his native Hungary -- where he is also on trial for the same alleged offences -- barring him from leaving the country.

Due to Csatary's absence, the hearing "was put off indefinitely," Marcela Galova, spokeswoman for the regional court in the eastern city of Kosice, told AFP.

The Hungarian is the most-wanted living Nazi in a ranking compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organisation.

The centre said he helped run the Jewish ghetto in Kosice, a town that was visited in April 1944 by Adolf Eichmann, a key figure in the Nazis' so-called 'Final Solution'.

Between 1941 and 1944, Csatary is alleged to have brutalised Jews and sent 16,000 to their deaths in Ukraine and the gas chambers at the Nazi German Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

In June, Hungarian prosecutors also charged Csatary -- full name Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary -- for the same alleged war crimes.

Prosecutors claimed he "regularly beat the interned Jews with his bare hands and whipped them with a dog-whip without any special reasons, regardless of their sex, age or health."

The Budapest court suspended its trial against Csatary this week because of possible double jeopardy, given the similarity of the charges filed in the two countries.

Csatary allegedly also refused to cut windows into the airless train wagons that each transported around 80 men, women and children to death camps in Nazi-occupied Europe.

In 1948, a communist-era Czechoslovak court sentenced Csatary to death in absentia for his role in the Kosice ghetto.

As the death sentence is no longer legal in Slovakia -- which formed Czechoslovakia with today's Czech Republic until 1993 -- the Kosice court reduced it to life imprisonment in April to help pave the way for his extradition from Hungary.

The hunt for Csatary gained momentum last year after a Slovak citizen whose father was deported to Germany in January 1945 filed charges against him for crimes against humanity, which carry no statute of limitations, insisting that he be tried on Slovak soil.

He was arrested in July 2012 in the Hungarian capital on information from the Wiesenthal Centre. At the time, the state prosecutor said he was in good mental and physical health.

Csatary fled to Canada after the war where he worked as an art dealer before being stripped of his citizenship. He returned to Hungary and apparently lived undisturbed for about 15 years before his arrest.

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