Hungary war crimes trial resumes after medical OK

AP News
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Posted: May 19, 2011 5:38 AM
Hungary war crimes trial resumes after medical OK

The war crimes trial of a 97-year-old Hungarian former gendarmerie officer resumed Thursday after doctors determined that he is healthy enough to take part.

Sandor Kepiro is on trial for his alleged involvement in the deaths of about 35 people in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad during an anti-partisan raid by Hungarian forces in January 1942 in which thousands were killed.

Judge Bela Varga said at the start of the session that medical exams he ordered last week concluded that Kepiro is physically and mentally fit. Doctors noted that while Kepiro has significant hearing problems and needs hearing aids, he is able to understand what is going on.

Due to Kepiro's frail condition, however, court sessions will be shortened to a maximum of two a day of 45 minutes each. The judge also said that quieter conditions, including some restrictions on the press, would be imposed in the courtroom to ensure that Kepiro's hearing problems aren't amplified.

Both the prosecution and the defense accepted the doctors' report.

Defense lawyer Zsolt Zetenyi said Kepiro has been provided with new hearing aids, which allow him to better follow the court proceedings.

Kepiro, who says he is innocent, sat in a wheelchair wearing large headphones.

After a short recess, the judge read out documents from interrogations by the Hungarian secret police and trials from 1948 in which others incriminated Kepiro for his alleged actions during the Novi Sad raids.

"The whole thing is a total lie," Kepiro responded when asked by the judge to comment on the testimony.

Others who participated in the raids implicated him as a form of retribution "because I did not let them steal and murder," Kepiro said.

Judge Varga said the trial would continue next week and if the hearings are held as scheduled, a verdict could be announced on June 3.

Kepiro, who earned a law degree in Hungary in 1937, went to Austria after World War II and later emigrated to Argentina, where he worked in the textile industry. He returned to Hungary in 1996.

According to court papers, unidentified members of a patrol under Kepiro's command killed four people during a raid on Jan. 23, 1942. Kepiro is also suspected of being involved in the deaths of around 30 others who were executed on the banks of the Danube River.