BUDAPEST, Hungary, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- A local Hungarian court and the not the government will decide if a suspected Nazi war criminal is to be extradited to Slovakia, Budapest said this week.
A statement issued by the Hungarian Ministry of Public Administration indicated that if it receives an extradition request from Slovakia for war crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary, the Budapest Municipal Court will make the call.
The 97-year-old Csatary -- accused of playing a key role in the deportation of thousands of Jews from Kosice in present-day Slovakia to Nazi death camps during World War II -- has lived in Hungary since 1997.
Slovakian Minister of Justice Tomas Borec said in Bratislava that his government wants Csatary to be tried there and has requested a Slovakian court in Kosice to contact the Hungarian judiciary with the aim of putting Csatary on trial on Slovakian soil.
Hungarian officials said they hadn't received a European arrest warrant for Csatary, but, if they do, a framework between the countries is in place under which it would be up to the Budapest court and not government ministries to carry out an extradition.
Because he is already under arrest in Hungary, the Budapest court "may refuse to carry out the European arrest warrant and surrender the suspect if criminal proceedings based on the same grounds are also under way in Hungary," the statement said.
Csatary, who has been under house arrest since July 18, was interrogated Tuesday by prosecutors, to whom he denied having anything to do with war crimes, his attorney said.
Attorney Horvath Gabor said Csatary was questioned for 3 hours and categorically refuted the charges, saying he wasn't the police commander for the Jewish ghetto in Kosice during the war and that he has been the victim of a case of mistaken identity, the Hungarian news agency MTI reported.
Pressure mounted on the Hungarian government to arrest Csatary since the publication of an expose in the British tabloid The Sun last week portraying him as living openly in the country following his 1997 flight from Canada, where he was set be expelled as a suspected war criminal.
Hungarian prosecutors began investigating Csatary last year after they were given evidence by the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem.
Jewish investigators contend that in 1944 Csatary played a key role as the ghetto commander responsible for the deportation of approximately 15,700 Jews from Kosice -- the second largest city in modern-day Slovakia -- to the Auschwitz death camp.
They also allege that in 1941 Csatary played a role in the deportation of around 300 Jews from Kosice to Kamyanets-Podilsky in Ukraine, where that summer almost all of them were killed in a mass murder of 23,600 mostly Hungarian Jews -- one of the first instances of the Nazis' "final solution" that led to the Holocaust.
Csatary was tried in absentia and sentenced to death by a Czechoslovakian court in 1948.
Hungary last year was scene of high-profile trial of accused Nazi war criminal and former police Capt. Sandor Kepiro, who was acquitted on charges of helping carry out a World War II massacre of Serbian and Jewish civilians in northern Yugoslavia.
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