Libel charges dropped against Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff

Efraim Zuroff

Efraim Zuroff

Libel charges against Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff were thrown out of a Hungarian court today after the plaintiff, a man suspected of Holocaust-era war crimes by Mr Zuroff, did not show up in court.

Judge Viktor Vadász had previously warned Sandor Kepiro, 96, that the case would not proceed without his presence in the Budapest court.

The judge is believed to have told Mr Kepiro’s lawyer that if his client was healthy enough to attend the first court date in October, he would be expected at the second.

Mr Kepiro sued Mr Zuroff in 2007, over documents submitted to Hungarian prosecutors alleging Mr Kepiro was involved in the massacre of 1,246 civilians in Novi Sad. Most of the victims of the 1943 attack, including Jews, Serbs and Roma, were taken to the Danube River and shot.

In his libel suit, Kepiro alleged that Mr Zuroff had made statements about the case as fact rather than opinion. The court required Mr Zuroff to back up his statements, or face a possible two-year jail term.

According to Mr Zuroff, Mr Kepiro has been twice found guilty of involvement in the massacres: before the Nazi invasion of Hungary, and after the war, when he was living in Argentina.

Mr Zuroff said he was relieved at today’s outcome but pointed out that Mr Kepiro still had eight days to appeal to a higher court, which he was likely to do. If the higher court finds the appeal justified, the trial will be rescheduled for the lower court.

Mr Zuroff said: “I consider this whole thing to be legal harassment and diversion from the issue. The key issue is the prosecution of Kepiro.

“I will not be satisfied until he is prosecuted."

He said he expected to hear whether Mr Kepiro would face a war crimes trial, based on the information Mr Zuroff compiled, in the next month.

Last updated: 10:51am, December 16 2010