A court in Budapest has found Hungarian war crimes suspect Sandor Kepiro not guilty of ordering the rounding up and execution of over 30 Jews and Serbs in Serbia during World War II.
AP - A 97-year-old man was acquitted Monday of war crimes charges stemming from a raid by Hungarian forces in Serbia during World War II.
According to prosecutors, unidentified members of a patrol under Sandor Kepiro’s command killed four people during a raid in Novi Sad, Serbia, on Jan. 23, 1942. Kepiro, at the time a former gendarmerie captain, was also suspected of being involved in the deaths of around 30 others who were executed on the banks of the Danube River.
Many of the dozens of people attending the court session cheered and clapped after Judge Bela Varga read out the verdict of the three-judge tribunal.
Kepiro, who returned to Hungary in 1996 after decades in Argentina, was first accused in 2006 by Nazi hunters with the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Kepiro had acknowledged that he participated in the raids but denied any responsibility in the killings.
In 1941, in the wake of the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia, Hungarian forces entered northern Serbia, which had been part of Hungary until World War I. In early 1942, those Hungarian forces carried out raids to counter the growing number of partisan attacks.
Kepiro said his task was to supervise the identification of people being rounded up, but he said he was unaware of the killings until after they had been carried out. About 800 Serbs and 400 Jews are thought to have been killed in the raids.
Kepiro told the court he had intervened to save to lives of a Serbian-Jewish family that owned a hotel in Novi Sad and were about to be taken by Hungarian soldiers to be shot.
At the heart of Kepiro’s case was a January 1944 conviction for disloyalty handed down by a military court for his role in the Novi Sad raids. The 10-year prison sentence, of which Kepiro served a few weeks, was later annulled and his rank reinstated.
Kepiro claimed the 1944 proceedings were a show trial to appease the Allied forces.
Zuroff, however, said the decision to overturn Kepiro’s conviction was made possible only by the March 1944 occupation of Hungary by Nazi Germany.
In 2007, a Budapest court rejected a request by Zuroff to enforce Kepiro’s 1944 conviction and put him in prison.
A verdict in Kepiro’s trial is expected on May 19. If convicted, Kepiro could face life in prison.
Date created : 2011-07-18