A 97-year-old man was cleared today of war crimes charges stemming from a raid by Hungarian forces that killed 35 people in Serbia during the Second World War.
Campaigners who considered the case “one of the last major trials” of alleged Holocaust-era war criminal suspects were shocked by the verdict.
“It’s an absolutely outrageous decision,” Efraim Zuroff, the chief ’Nazi hunter’ with the Wiesenthal Centre’s Jerusalem office said.
Sandor Kepiro was charged with involvement in the killing of the 35 – mostly Jews and Serbs – during an anti-partisan raid in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, then under Hungarian control, on January 23, 1942. He returned to Hungary in 1996 after decades in Argentina.
Zuroff, who brought Kepiro’s case to light in 2006, said: “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.”
In Serbia, deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said he expected Hungarian prosecutors to appeal against the verdict. Lawyers have until late on Friday to lodge an appeal.
“Of course, we are not pleased,” Vekaric said.