BERLIN (JTA) — Hungary has filed war crimes charges against Sandor Kepiro for his role in the murder of civilians near Novi Sad, Serbia, during World War II.
Kepiro, 96, was charged Monday for involvement in the murder of some 1,200 Jews, Serbs and Gypsies during a raid by the wartime Hungarian Gendarmerie at Novi Sad in 1942.
The announcement marks an end to five years of investigation prompted by the handover of material to prosecutors in Budapest in 2006 by Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office.
Kepiro now stands accused of ordering his patrol to shoot civilians to death, according to Gabriella Skoda, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office in Budapest. No date has been set for the trial, but Zuroff said Kepiro’s lawyer wants it held as soon as possible.
Zuroff said he obtained some of the documentary evidence with the help of Serbian authorities. The material related to Kepiro’s alleged role in the murders of 1,246 civilians.
He told JTA that he felt "gratified and vindicated, that at long last Hungary has officially indicted" Kepiro. He called it an important day for victims and their families, and also for Hungary.
"This will be the first trial of an accused Hungarian Nazi war criminal" since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, Zuroff said.
Kepiro was found guilty of involvement twice; once by the pre-Nazi Hungarian courts, and again after the war, in 1946. By then he allegedly had fled via Austria to Argentina. He returned to Budapest in 1996, and Zuroff, who has been searching for Nazi war criminals under the Wiesenthal Center’s Operation Last Chance program, located him.
Meanwhile, the court will suspend the libel suit that Kepiro’s lawyer, Zetenyi Zsolt, filed last fall against Zuroff until the new proceeding is over. Kepiro had charged Zuroff with proclaiming him guilty before a trial.
In 2008, Serbian prosecutors launched a war crimes investigation into Kepiro’s actions.
Kepiro told The Associated Press that he is bedridden and wants to return to his family in Argentina.