Sandor Kepiro, cleared of role in massacre

By Pablo Gorondi
Associated Press / September 4, 2011

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BUDAPEST - Sandor Kepiro, a former officer in a Hungarian special security force who was recently acquitted of war crimes charges related to a massacre of civilians during World War II, died yesterday. He was 97.

Mr. Kepiro died at a hospital in Budapest, his lawyer Zsolt Zetenyi said. He said doctors did not provide a cause of death.

“Doctors said he was suffering from ‘general weakening,’ and I am convinced the trial contributed significantly to the worsening of his health,’’ Zetenyi said. “His condition was continually deteriorating.’’

Charges that Mr. Kepiro, a former gendarmerie captain, was responsible for the deaths of 36 people in northern Serbia during World War II were dismissed in July by a Budapest court because of insufficient evidence.

Zetenyi had appealed the ruling, saying it did not go far enough in clearing Mr. Kepiro. The prosecution also appealed, calling the acquittal by a panel of three judges “unfounded.’’

The charges stemmed from Mr. Kepiro’s participation in a raid by Hungarian forces on the northern Serbian town of Novi Sad in January 1942, in which more than 1,200 civilians were killed.

Mr. Kepiro acknowledged participating in the raids, which were part of a crackdown on partisan activity in the region, but he maintained that his role was only to help supervise the roundup of civilians and denied knowing about the massacre until later.