HUNGARY.— On Monday, a Hungarian court acquitted Sandor Kepiro, one of the world’s most wanted Nazi criminals, claiming there was insufficient evidence to convict him of the murder of over 30 people of Novi Sad, in 1942.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Court of Budapest said Kepiro was acquitted due to lack of evidence.
The prosecution’s case depended almost entirely old testimonies and verdicts from trials in the 1940s, the defense claimed there was no direct evidence that Kepiro committed the crimes.
Zsolt Falvai, a prosecutor, explained the prosecution’s difficulty, “There are cases where there is no access to direct evidence as the direct witnesses are no longer alive… We are obliged to base our case on written proof, documents, even if these are old testimonies.”
The 97-year-old Hungarian, Sandor Kepiro who once topped the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s (SWC) list of most wanted Nazi criminals walked free form a Budapest court on Monday.
Kepiro, a former officer of the Hungarian gendarmerie claimed innocence, saying, “I am not guilty, and I have always lived a decent life.” Kepiro even went as far as to claim to have saved the lives of five people. Kepiro argued he did not know Jews or Serbs were the targets of the raid.
Ana Frenkel of the SWC and a leader of the Jewish community in Novi Sad, made the statement, “It is not unexpected from a Hungarian society which is not yet mature enough to face its past.”
Sandor Kepiro faced a life sentence for his participation in a raid by Hungarian forces in Novi Sad, on January 21-23, 1942, during which over 1,200 Jews and Serbs were brutally murdered.
Kepiro was found guilty of the crimes in Novi Sad twice, first in 1944, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison however the sentence was retracted just months later by the fascist government, and then again in 1946 at which time he escaped imprisonment by fleeing to Argentina. He did not return to Budapest until 1996.
Serbian Jews have urged an appeal over Sandor Kepiro acquittal. “We are not satisfied and we expect the prosecutor to file an appeal,” Bruno Vekaric, Serbia’s deputy war crimes prosecutor, explained.
“Time does not diminish the guilt of the killers and old age should not protect those who committed such heinous crimes,” Efraim Zuroff, the head of the SWC, said.