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Laszlo Csatary: Hungary arrests 97-year-old alleged Nazi war criminal (+video)

Laszlo Csatary was charged with 'unlawful torture of human beings,' after a Jewish organization alerted Hungarian officials of his Nazi involvement.

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"We took into consideration the severity of his acts, but we should not forget that the suspect is due the presumption of innocence," Ibolya said. "In our estimation, he will not be able to escape."

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Ibolya said considering Csatary's age, he was in good physical and mental condition, although experts had yet to examine him.

Csatary was been convicted in absentia for war crimes in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and sentenced to death. He arrived in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia the following year, became a Canadian citizen in 1955 and worked as an art dealer in Montreal.

In October 1997, Canadian authorities said the 82-year-old had left the country, apparently bound for Europe, before they had the chance to decide his fate in a deportation hearing. His citizenship had been revoked in August and the deportation order was based on his obtaining citizenship by giving false information.

Canadian authorities alleged that Csatary had failed to provide information concerning his collaboration with Nazi occupation forces while serving with the Royal Hungarian Police and his participation in the internment and deportation to concentration camps of thousands of Hungarian Jews.

Ibolya said the investigation into the Csatary case was continuing and that prosecutors were waiting for information from Israel, including the possible testimony of survivors, and Canada.

"I expect this case to continue for months, even taking into account that we are treating it as one that we would like to conclude as soon as possible," Ibolya said.

In Israel, Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office, applauded the arrest.

"When you look at a person like this, you shouldn't see an old frail person, but think of a man who at the height of his physical powers devoted all his energy to murdering or persecuting and murdering innocent men, women and children," Zuroff told the AP.

Zuroff, often described as the world's top Nazi hunter, was able to locate Csatary with the help an unidentified, paid informant.

In 2002, he launched "Operation Last Chance," which offers rewards for information on suspected Holocaust-era war criminals and lobbies for governments to put them on trial.

Hungarian prosecutors say Zuroff first told officials about Csatary in September 2011, meeting with them as recently as July 9 to provide more data about him.

While prosecutors acknowledge Zuroff's role in the case, they have also criticized him for alerting the press in April about his findings.

Ibolya, Budapest's acting chief prosecutor, said that by making the case public, Zuroff may also have put Csatary on alert, increasing the chance that he would try to escape and "greatly endangering the success of the investigation."

A year ago, another elderly suspect uncovered by Zuroff's reward program, Sandor Kepiro, was acquitted of war crime charges by a Budapest court because of insufficient evidence. Kepiro died in September at age 97, while the ruling was being appealed.

Alon Bernstein in Jerusalem and Bela Szandelszky in Budapest contributed to this report

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