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Hungarian court acquits WWII war crime suspect

A court in Budapest has cleared a Hungarian Nazi war crimes suspect, Sandor Kepiro, of all charges. The 97-year-old will not be held accountable for his role in the massacre of civilian hostages in Serbia during World War II.

Kepiro was charged with participating in the Novi Sad massacre, the notorious raid by Hungarian troops in occupied Serbia in 1942, which ended with the killing of an estimated 4,000 civilians, mostly Serbs and Jews. Prosecutors said Kepiro was directly responsible for 36 of those deaths.

However the Hungarian court said the man, who was a gendarmerie captain at the time of the raid, was not responsible for the crimes he was indicted on. Many of the dozens of people attending the court session cheered and clapped after Judge Bela Varga read out the verdict of the three-judge tribunal, reports Associated Press.

Kepiro was already tried for the same crime in 1944 along with 14 other Hungarian officers. While the court found him guilty, he was set free by a new right-wing government, after it took power in a coup-d’etat.

As Kepiro fled Hungary and was hiding in Latin America, a second trial sentenced him in absentia to 14 years in prison, which was four years longer than the first sentence.

Defense in the current trial insisted that Kepiro could not be tried again for a crime he was already tried for in the past. The trial has also been proceeding slowly due to the defendant’s poor health and apparent senility.

Prosecution said it wanted a sentence similar to that given to John Demjanjuk, a former guard at the Nazi death camp Sobibor, who was found guilty of aiding in killing of prisoners by a German court and sentenced to a five-year prison term.