Accused Nazi wins Australia extradition reprieve

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CANBERRA, Sep 26 (Reuters) An alleged Nazi war criminal living in Australia has won a temporary reprieve against extradition to Hungary after a judge ruled his long-running appeal should be heard by Australia's highest court.

Charles Zentai, 85, was arrested by Australian Federal Police in July 2005 and is accused of taking part in the fatal beating in 1944 of Jewish teenager Peter Balazs in Budapest.

At the time Zentai was a 23-year-old warrant officer in the pro-Nazi Hungarian military, but argues he left Budapest with his regiment the day before the murder on November 8, 1944.

A judge in Perth, Western Australia state, said he would not rule on the extradition request until Zentai's case had come before the High Court in Canberra, which agreed last September to hear a separate appeal.

''We'll see what the position is in February,'' Magistrate Steven Heath told the court yesterday, according to Australian media reports.

Lawyers for the Hungarian Government unsuccessfully argued the extradition request should be decided by the lower Perth Magistrates Court.

Balazs, 18, was travelling on a tram when he was detained for not wearing the yellow Star of David. He was tortured and killed in an army barracks and his body dumped in the Danube River.

Zentai's family has argued their father, a retired mental health nurse, would not survive extradition due to frail health.

REUTERS SG BD1115

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