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The garden view of the apartment building which allegedly housed Laszlo Csatary until his arrest today. Bela Szandelszky/AP
World War II

World's 'most wanted' Nazi arrested in Hungary

Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary was sentenced to death by a Czech court in 1948 but fled to Canada and had lived freely.

HUNGARIAN AUTHORITIES have detained, questioned and put under house arrest a 97-year-old who tops the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s dwindling wanted-list of suspected Nazi war criminals.

Laszlo Csatary, accused by the Wiesenthal Center of organising the deportation of some 16,000 Jews from the ghetto of Kosice in present-day Slovakia to their deaths in Auschwitz, protests his innocence.

“Our viewpoint is that at this age, being under house arrest is already quite a shock,” state prosecutor Tibor Ibolya said. “We have to make sure that this man remains alive and is able to stand trial.”

“One of his arguments in his defence is that he was obeying orders.”

Clutching a plastic bag, dressed in a grey jacket and surprisingly sprightly for his age, the former senior police officer said nothing as he was whisked away in a car by two friends or relatives.

This followed his early-morning arrest in the Hungarian capital Budapest and several hours of questioning by an investigating magistrate at a military prosecution office.

“The suspect is in good physical and mental health. He is being cooperative. He was surprised [about being arrested] but he expected to be questioned,” Ibolya said.

Csatary, full name Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary, helped run the Jewish ghetto in Kosice, which was visited in April 1944 by Adolf Eichmann, a key figure in the Nazis’ Final Solution.

While there between 1941 and 1944, Csatary beat and brutalized Jews and sent 16,000 to their deaths in Ukraine and to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

In 1948, a Czechoslovakian court condemned Csatary to death in absentia but he made it to Canada where he lived and worked as an art dealer before being stripped of his citizenship there in the 1990s.

He ended up in Budapest where he has lived freely ever since, until the Wiesenthal Center alerted Hungarian authorities last year.

British tabloid The Sun raised attention to his case with a report at the weekend after tracking down the old man, photographing him and confronting him at his front door.

- © AFP, 2012

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