Prosecution, Jewish community react to Kepiro acquittal

Serbia's Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor Bruno Vekarić said Monday he "could not comment" on the decision by Budapest court to acquit Sandor Kepiro.

Izvor: B92

Monday, 18.07.2011.

16:27

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Serbia's Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said Monday he "could not comment" on the decision by Budapest court to acquit Sandor Kepiro. He however said he expected "Hungarian colleagues to appeal the verdict". Prosecution, Jewish community react to Kepiro acquittal "This is a first-degree verdict and we cannot comment on it. Of course we are not happy with it and expect the Hungarian prosecutor to appeal it," Vekaric told Tanjug. It is important to deliver justice to the victims, he added. Kepiro, a Second World War fascist Hungarian police captain in occupied Serbia, was charged with war crimes against Serbs, Jews and Roma during the Novi Sad Raid - a massacre perpetrated by Hungarians in 1942. According to the indictment, he participated in the crime that took place in Novi Sad and surrounding locations. At least 1,200 Serbs, Jews and Roma were thrown in the river between January 21 and 23, 1942. At the end of the war, Kepiro was sentenced to 10 and 14 years in prison for those crimes, but he avoided prison by fleeing to Austria and then Argentina in the summer of 1948. He returned to Hungary in 1996 to spend his remaining days in his home country. He is also suspected of involvement in deportations of Jews to Auschwitz in 1944. Serbia provided Hungary with evidence against Kepiro so he could stand trial in that country, being its citizen. The Hungarian prosecutor raised the indictment February 14. The trial started May 5, when Kepiro pleaded not guilty, saying he had taken no part in the bloodshed nor received any orders to commit the crimes. Serbia's War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic was present on Monday as the court acquitted Kepiro. In a statement for B92 on Monday, Vuckovic said he was "not satisfied" with the verdict. "The judgment itself caused a reaction in the courtroom that surprised me - there were chants of approval, which is not customary," asserted he. Vukcevic also said he had expected a guilty verdict. "I expected it to be the satisfaction for the victims, another proof that there is no statute of limitations on war crimes, and that those who bloodied their hands will be held responsible sooner or later. But that did not happen. We now await to see what the second-degree court will say, since the (Hungarian) prosecutor announced he would appeal the ruling," concluded Vuckovic. Kepiro was living as a pensioner in Budapest when Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff located him there five years ago. The Federation of the Jewish Communities of Serbia reacted to the verdict today by saying the victims of the Novi Sad Raid did not receive justice. "To acquit someone of war crimes charges would mean that Hungary had firm evidence that he was not there, that he did not witness and take part in all that. The rest, as far as I'm concerned, constitutes for a political verdict," the federation's president, Aleksandar Necak, told B92. Necak also noted that the Jewish community expected this outcome to the trial, "because it took place in Hungary", which, according to him, "is seeing a rise in fascism", with pro-fascist Jobik party holding a significant number of seats in that country's parliament. "As far as they're concerned, Kepiro is not a criminal. As far as we're concerned, for as long as I live and for as long as those who come after me live, Kepiro will remain a criminal who, likely for ideological but also for anti-Semitic reasons, killed Jews in the Raid. Beside the Raid, he also acted in the area of Vojvodina to send people to concentration camps," said Necak. He concluded by saying that he believed the ruling "would not have been different if Kepiro were put on trial in Serbia" - and explained this would be the case because there were "attempts of certain interest groups to rehabilitate Nedic, Ljotic, and the like". Sandor Kepiro in the courtroom (Beta)

Prosecution, Jewish community react to Kepiro acquittal

"This is a first-degree verdict and we cannot comment on it. Of course we are not happy with it and expect the Hungarian prosecutor to appeal it," Vekarić told Tanjug.

It is important to deliver justice to the victims, he added.

Kepiro, a Second World War fascist Hungarian police captain in occupied Serbia, was charged with war crimes against Serbs, Jews and Roma during the Novi Sad Raid - a massacre perpetrated by Hungarians in 1942.

According to the indictment, he participated in the crime that took place in Novi Sad and surrounding locations. At least 1,200 Serbs, Jews and Roma were thrown in the river between January 21 and 23, 1942.

At the end of the war, Kepiro was sentenced to 10 and 14 years in prison for those crimes, but he avoided prison by fleeing to Austria and then Argentina in the summer of 1948.

He returned to Hungary in 1996 to spend his remaining days in his home country.

He is also suspected of involvement in deportations of Jews to Auschwitz in 1944.

Serbia provided Hungary with evidence against Kepiro so he could stand trial in that country, being its citizen. The Hungarian prosecutor raised the indictment February 14.

The trial started May 5, when Kepiro pleaded not guilty, saying he had taken no part in the bloodshed nor received any orders to commit the crimes.

Serbia's War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević was present on Monday as the court acquitted Kepiro.

In a statement for B92 on Monday, Vučković said he was "not satisfied" with the verdict.

"The judgment itself caused a reaction in the courtroom that surprised me - there were chants of approval, which is not customary," asserted he.

Vukčević also said he had expected a guilty verdict.

"I expected it to be the satisfaction for the victims, another proof that there is no statute of limitations on war crimes, and that those who bloodied their hands will be held responsible sooner or later. But that did not happen. We now await to see what the second-degree court will say, since the (Hungarian) prosecutor announced he would appeal the ruling," concluded Vučković.

Kepiro was living as a pensioner in Budapest when Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff located him there five years ago.

The Federation of the Jewish Communities of Serbia reacted to the verdict today by saying the victims of the Novi Sad Raid did not receive justice.

"To acquit someone of war crimes charges would mean that Hungary had firm evidence that he was not there, that he did not witness and take part in all that. The rest, as far as I'm concerned, constitutes for a political verdict," the federation's president, Aleksandar Nećak, told B92.

Nećak also noted that the Jewish community expected this outcome to the trial, "because it took place in Hungary", which, according to him, "is seeing a rise in fascism", with pro-fascist Jobik party holding a significant number of seats in that country's parliament.

"As far as they're concerned, Kepiro is not a criminal. As far as we're concerned, for as long as I live and for as long as those who come after me live, Kepiro will remain a criminal who, likely for ideological but also for anti-Semitic reasons, killed Jews in the Raid. Beside the Raid, he also acted in the area of Vojvodina to send people to concentration camps," said Nećak.

He concluded by saying that he believed the ruling "would not have been different if Kepiro were put on trial in Serbia" - and explained this would be the case because there were "attempts of certain interest groups to rehabilitate Nedić, Ljotić, and the like".

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