Zuroff v Zentai

December 12, 2010 by J-Wire
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Efraim Zuroff, the Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, will head to Budapest this week to appeal with authorities to continue to push for the extradition of 89-yr-old Charles Zentai wanted for questioning over the 1944 murder of Peter Balazs.

Peter Balazs

Charles Zentai

Zentai immigrated to Perth, Australia in 1950. In 2005 a request was made by Hungarian authorities to the Australian Government for his extradition to face questioning about the death of 18-yr-old Balazs who was dragged from a Budapest tram to army barracks where he was beaten to death in front of other prisoners by three men and his body dumped in the Danube.

Following a lengthy process, Zentai was imprisoned in Perth and the request for extradition granted. But in July this year, the Federal Court in Perth decided that the extradition order was beyond the jurisdiction of the Home Affairs Minister Brendon O’Connor. Zentai’s bail conditions will lapse next month and Justice McKerracher has ruled that he should not remain on bail. The Government has until January 24 to appeal. The judge has ruled that the Government reimburse Zentai’s costs.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem , Dr Efraim Zuroff has made the following statement on hearing the news: “The Center will do its utmost to help achieve justice in this case. I am in contact with Hungarian Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics, who was indicated that there is no statute of limitations on such crimes and that the request for Zentai’s extradition remains in  force. During my visit next week to Budapest, I will continue to pursue this matter with the relevant local officials in order to facilitate justice. The Balazs family, Hungarian society, and  all persons of morality and conscience deserve no less.”

He added: “The key question is whether Hungary will appeal the decision and press for extradition. I will be in Budapest next week and intend to meet with Hungarian authorities to urge them to continue to pursue the case.”


One Response to “Zuroff v Zentai”
  1. Jan says:

    I would recommend a different course of action. First, the current process should be abandoned. The reason for this is simply that the case is so fatally flawed from Hungary’s perspective that it most likely is doomed to fail. There are number of reasons identified in the recent judgments, but one of the most important one is that Mr. Zentai is not charged, he is only wanted for questioning. This has not been an issue before within the Australian process, but it appears to be now. Indeed, in my understanding the judge is correct. Australia can approve extradition only if the person is wanted as being charged. While it is true that minds may differ when talking about “accused”, “charged” or “wanted for prosecution”, especially when comparing Common law and Civil law systems, the current law doesn’t seem to allow exceptions. The person must be charged before extradition process can be initiated.

    The above mentioned creates a dilemma. There are two appeal levels to go. the Full Federal Court and the High Court. To get through these steps might take another 2 to 3 years. This estimated time together with the analysis of the current judgment in Mr. Zentai’s favor simply leaves only one option: to charge him and to file another request. Australian law doesn’t barr repeated requests, and as a matter of fact, they’ve been used in a number of cases. So, now what shall be done, assuming the Hungarian law allows it and doesn’t require more, is as follows; a) the Hungarian authorities would need to travel to Australia to question Mr. Zentai and then charge him; and after this is done b) file another request with the flaws corrected.

    If one is willing to pursue extradition against Mr. Zentai, one might as well start a process a fresh. It will still take years, and it would be more likely to get success with a new request where the now identified errors are corrected.

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