The world's top Nazi hunter urged Serbia on Monday to seek the extradition of three elderly war-crimes suspects and blasted Austria and Hungary for failing to help bring two of them to justice.
Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said at a news conference with Serbian officials that he was helping them provide evidence against Peter Egner, who lives in the United States, Milivoj Asner, who lives in Austria, and Sandor Kepiro of Hungary.
Egner allegedly served in a Nazi unit that killed 17,000 civilians in Serbia during World War II. Asner is wanted for WWII atrocities against Serbs, Jews and Gypsies in Croatia.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center says Kepiro, 94, was convicted by Hungarian courts in 1944 and 1946 but never punished for his alleged role in Hungarian forces' killings of some 800 Jews and 400 Serbs in the wake of the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia.
Asner caused a stir this summer when he was seen watching a soccer match in the Austrian city of Klagenfurt. Critics contend Austria is sheltering him.
'Bring those poeple to justice'
Serbia should seek the extradition of the three "as soon as possible" because it is "a decision of great importance to bring those people to justice," Zuroff said.
Serbia's war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, said that Serbia will seek the extradition of the three after collecting evidence and launching legal procedures.
"The issue in these cases is not finding the suspects, is not finding the evidence," Zuroff said. "The problem has been the lack of political will by the countries in which these people reside."
"I'm referring primarily to Austria and Hungary, and not the United States where there are serious efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice," he said.
Phone calls to the Hungarian and Austrian justice ministries went unanswered Monday evening.
Austria reviewing request
Austria's Justice Ministry said this year that it is reviewing a request from Zuroff to make a fresh assessment of Asner's physical and mental state and prove he is suffering from dementia as experts have ruled in the past.
Without a new evaluation declaring him physically and mentally fit, "our hands are tied," ministry spokesman Thomas Geiblinger said at the time.
This summer, the U.S. Justice Department asked a federal court to revoke Egner's American citizenship, saying he had served as a guard and interpreter with the Nazi-controlled Security Police and Security Service in Belgrade from April 1941 to September 1943.
Egner, 86, who lives in a retirement community in the Seattle area, can only be extradited to Serbia if he is stripped of his U.S. citizenship.