98-year-ol Lászlo Csatary has been charged by Hungarian prosecutors with participation in Nazi war crimes. Csatary has been under house arrest since July 2012 whilst decisions were taken about whether to charge him in Hungary or extradite him to Slovakia.
In 1948, he was found guilty in absentia by Czechoslovak courts and sentenced to death. After Slovakia abolished the death sentence in 1998, the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. In April this year, Csatary appealed unsuccessfully against that sentence to the Slovak Supreme Court. In addition to the 1948 charges, Csatary also faces new charges in Slovakia which have not yet been heard. The alleged crimes were committed in Kosice, which is in present-day Slovakia but was part of Hungary at the time. This led to a difficult legal question as whether he should be put on trial in Hungary or sent to Slovakia to serve the sentence already passed on him.
Yesterday’s announcement does not preclude extradition but that is unlikely to be considered until the Hungarian case has been heard. It is expected to reach the courts within 3 months.
According to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Csatary played a key role in the deportation of more than 15,000 Slovak Jews to the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz) in spring 1944. During World War Two, Csatary headed the Hungarian police in the Kosice Jewish ghetto. Slovakia also suspects Csatary of another war crime. This case, in which no one has been accused for now, is linked to the arrest and subsequent deportation of a young Slovak man to Germany in 1945.
At the end of the war, Csatary escaped from Hungary and settled down in Canada, which granted citizenship to him. In October 1997 he left Canada to avoid the impending expulsion over having acquired Canadian citizenship based on false information. Last year, he was uncovered living in Budapest under a false name. He was immediately put on house arrest, which, however, the Hungarian court did not prolong last August, according to the then available information.
Given the age and health of Csatary, it is obviously getting increasingly unlikely that he will actually serve any sentence either in Slovakia or Hungary.