Sandor Kepiro - Reuters - July 2011
Sandor Kepiro Photo by Reuters
Text size

BUDAPEST, Hungary - A 97-year-old man was cleared yesterday of war-crimes charges stemming from a raid by Hungarian forces that killed 35 people in Serbia during World War II, shocking those who considered the case "one of the last major trials" of Holocaust-era suspects.

"It's an absolutely outrageous decision," Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter with the Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office, told The Associated Press.

It "flies in the face of all the evidence, everything we know about this dark event and the mass murder that took place in Novi Sad," added Zuroff, who brought Sandor Kepiro's case to light in 2006.

Kepiro, during the war a gendarmerie captain, had been charged by prosecutors with alleged involvement in the anti-partisan raid in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, then under Hungarian control, on January 23, 1942. Mostly Jews and Serbs were killed. Kepiro returned to Hungary in 1996 after decades in Argentina.

In Serbia, deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said he expected Hungarian prosecutors to appeal. Prosecutors and the defense have until late Friday to appeal.

New investigation into Demjanjuk

Meanwhile, Bavarian prosecutors have opened a new investigation of John Demjanjuk after a German attorney filed a complaint accusing him of additional war crimes in an attempt to extend the precedent set by his landmark conviction.

The 91-year-old was found guilty in May of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder after a Munich court found that he was a guard during the war at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp.

The case marked the first time someone was convicted in Germany on evidence of being only a guard, without evidence of a specific killing.

Demjanjuk was sentenced to five years in prison but was released pending appeal.