PERTH, Australia – An 88-year-old man accused by Hungary of Nazi war crimes during World War II surrendered to Australian police Thursday after exhausting his appeals against extradition.
Australian citizen Charles Zentai is accused by the Hungarian government of being one of three men who tortured and killed a Jewish teenager in 1944 for failing to wear a star identifying him as a Jew.
Zentai, who emigrated to Australia in 1950, says he is innocent and was not in Budapest when the slaying occurred.
He was taken to Perth's Hakea prison on Thursday after surrendering, two weeks after the Federal Court granted him a 14-day stay on a ruling that allowed his extradition to Hungary.
Zentai's lawyer, Denis Barich, said there would be no further legal appeals until the attorney-general made a decision on the case.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland has the final say on Zentai's extradition but has delegated the decision to Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor.
If the federal government orders his extradition, Zentai will resume the legal appeals process and could appeal to the country's High Court, Barich said.
Barich said Hungarian authorities had told McClelland they wanted to question Zentai, not charge him.
"Why should he be forced to go to Hungary, with all the danger to his health that such a trip would bring, when he can be questioned here in Australia?" Barich told reporters Thursday.
Zentai's poor health has kept him out of custody since a court ruled last year that he was eligible for extradition. He appealed in March and again earlier this month.
Zentai is listed by the U.S.-based, Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center among its 10 most wanted for having "participated in manhunts, persecution, and murder of Jews in Budapest in 1944."
A warrant was first issued for his arrest in 2005.