A 99 year old Nazi war crimes suspect, Hungarian Laszlo Csatary, has died while awaiting trial, his lawyer said.
Csatary died in a Hungarian hospital after suffering from a number of medical problems, Gabor Horvath said.
He at one time topped the list of most wanted Nazi war crimes suspects and is alleged to have assisted in the murder of 15,700 Jews during World War II.
He faced charges relating to his wartime activities in both Hungary and in Slovakia.
Horvath said his client died on Saturday morning. “He had been treated for medical issues for some time but contracted pneumonia, from which he died.”
Csatary had denied the allegations against him, saying he was merely an intermediary between Hungarian and German officials and was not involved in war crimes.
In 1944 he was the Royal Hungarian Police commander in the city of Kassa in Hungary (now Košice in Slovakia). In charge of a Jewish ghetto, he helped organize the deportation of approximately 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz. He is also accused of having inhumanely exercised his authority in a forced labour camp.
Csatary also brutalized the inhabitants of the city. He was convicted in absentia for war crimes in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and sentenced to death. He fled to Canada in 1949 claiming to be a Yugoslav national and settled in Montreal where he became an art dealer. He became a citizen in 1955.
In 1997, his Canadian citizenship was revoked by the federal Cabinet for lying on his citizenship application. He fled the country two months later.
In 2012, Csatary was located in Budapest, Hungary, based on a tip received by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in September 2011. His address was exposed by reporters from The Sun in July 2012.
He was reportedly taken into custody on 18 July 2012 by the Hungarian authorities for questioning.
On 30 July 2012, Slovak Justice Minister Tomáš Borec told reporters in Bratislava that Slovakia wanted Csatary to be tried in that country.
A file that the Simon Wiesenthal Center had prepared on Csatary implicated him in the deportation of 300 people from Kassa in 1941. In August 2012 the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office dropped these charges, saying Csatary was not in Kassa at the time and lacked the rank to organize the transports. In January 2013 it was reported that Slovak police had found a witness to corroborate other charges relating to deportations of 15,700 Jews from Kassa from May 1944.
On 28 March 2013, the Slovak County Court in Košice has changed the 1948 verdict in Csatary’s case.
The verdict was changed from death penalty to the life sentence according to the newspapers.
The reason for that was to make the verdict executable. According to the press the Prosecutor’s office spokesman said “now the Court has the task to deliver the verdict to the convict”.
On 18 June 2013, prosecutors in Hungary indicted Csatary with war crimes, saying he had abused Jews and helped to deport Jews to Auschwitz in World War II. A spokesperson for the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office said, “He is charged with the unlawful execution and torture of people, (thus) committing war crimes partly as a perpetrator, partly as an accomplice.”
The Budapest higher court suspended his case on 8 July 2013, however, because “Csatary had already been sentenced for the crimes included in the proceedings, in former Czechoslovakia in 1948”. The court added it needed to be established whether the 1948 ruling, a death sentence changed to life imprisonment later, could be valid in Hungary and under what circumstances could Csatary serve the sentence. (Euronews, August 12, 2013)