Charles Zentai, a 91-yr-old Perth resident, was incarcerated pending the outcome of an extradition request from the Hungarian government who wanted to question him on the 1944 murder of 18-yr-old Jewish youth Peter Balazs…and Zentai is considering seeking compensation.
The High Court of Australia upheld in August a Federal Court decision denying the extradition of Zentai who fled Europe in 1950 settling in Perth.
His son Ernie Steiner has written the following to J-Wire: “My father is an innocent man who suffered a terrible injustice. It is right that my father seeks advice on the issue of compensation. In order to keep my father’s options open and avoid expiration times related to launching such action, an application needed to be lodged in the Supreme Court of Western Australia before October 22, 2012. Applications contesting wrongful imprisonment must be registered within 3 years of the incarceration date.
At this stage there has been no determination to proceed with a claim for compensation. My father’s decision in this matter will be guided by proper legal advice. Others who have represented my father have recognized the massive injustice that was inflicted on him. High Court Justice Stephen Gaegler, Justice Michael Bowden, WA Governor Malcolm McCusker, Dr Peter Johnston, Dr Vicky Priskich to name a few. I believe my mother when she told me in a recorded interview in 1994 that she, my aunty Julie and my Dad left Budapest with the 101 army transport unit on November 7, 1944. I had no idea about the significance of this date until the accusations against my father started in 2005. It turned out that young Peter Balazs was murdered by Lieutenant Lajos Nagy and Captain Bela Mader on the following day, November 8. My mother was 22 at the time of their departure and she never saw her parents or brother again, ever. Can you imagine the significance of such an event? You would never forget a date like that. I am very disappointed that my response to the article by Efraim Zutroff received no response. Similarly I received no response from the Australian newspaper or the ABC regarding the same issue. At this stage we are only seeking professional legal advice on the issue of compensation.
My father was vilified, wrongfully arrested and imprisoned, was prevented from visiting his grand children and great grand children and suffered enormous financial loss for nothing. He never killed anyone, was never a Nazi, on the run or any other such nonsense that has been claimed. He was not even an officer, as wrongly claimed by Efraim Zuroff, at the time of the murder, he was a cadet sergeant. Was every Hungarian who resided in Australia after WW II a Nazi? All had to serve in the Royal Hungarian Army but they were not Nazis and it is grossly offensive by those who claim otherwise. My father detested Nazis and the extreme right element under Szalasi. Hearsay evidence, corrupt People’s Courts and torture cannot prove a person’s guilt. In 2006 the Australian Federal Police advised the Commonwealth DPP that there was insufficient evidence to mount even a prima facie case against my father in Australia.
The matter should have ended there but the Federal Government chose to apply the most severe options available on each occasion. Federal Court Justice Neil McKerracher concluded the same in his 2010 judgment. The Federal Government acted abysmally against an innocent Australian citizen. It blocked the information regarding advice from the AFP to the CDPP until they were forced to reveal it through a Federal Court order. They chose to lie about the reasons for my father’s name change as a 14 year old boy and when caught out chose to hide from public view their erroneous argument. Again the information was revealed through a Federal Court order for disclosure. Charles Zentai has a right to compensation but whether or not he pursues this option through the courts will be determined by advice expert advice.”
But the Executive Direcor of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Dr Efraim Zuroff has a different take on the decision not to extradite Zentai. He told J-Wire: “As usual, Ernie Steiner is confusing the issues.
The fact that an Australian court refused to allow the extradition of his father to Hungary is not a ruling on his innocence or guilt.
That issue has never been determined in a court of law and thanks to a flawed (in my opinion) decision by the Australian High Court that apparently will never happen.
In that respect, Ernie Steiner did his father a great disservice by preventing his possible acquittal in Hungary.
The behavior of the Zentai family was that of people with something to hide.
If they were so sure of their father’s innocence, why did they do everything possible to prevent him from having his day in court?’
Balazs was pulled off a tram in wartime Budapest for not wearing his yellow Star of David and dragged to army barracks where he was beaten to death in front of other prisoners. His body was dumped in the Danube. He had a special pass placing him in the care of Swiss authorities which negated the need for the badge.