Bratislava: Slovak police said on Thursday that they had launched a war crimes investigation against the alleged Nazi-era war criminal Laszlo Csatary, recently detained in neighbouring Hungary.

“Police in Kosice... began an investigation against Csatary for complicity in war crimes” in Slovakia, said Jana Mesarova, spokeswoman for the Kosice police in the country’s south-east.

The 97-year-old Csatary, who tops the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s dwindling wanted list of surviving suspected Nazi war criminals, allegedly organised the World War II deportation to their deaths of some 16,000 Jews from the ghetto of Kosice in present-day south-east Slovakia, which was then part of Hungary.

A Kosice citizen, whose father was deported to Germany in January 1945, last month filed charges against Csatary for crimes against humanity.

The charges include Csatary’s responsibility for deportations of Kosice citizens to Germany.

Justice Minister Tomas Borec said earlier he wanted Csatary to be tried in Slovakia, echoing a similar call by the country’s Jewish community.

According to the justice ministry, a Slovak court would most likely give Csatary a life sentence.

In 1948, a court in then-Czechoslovakia sentenced him to death in absentia but the death penalty has since been banned in Slovakia.

Csatary, whose full name is Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary, helped run the Jewish ghetto in Kosice, a town that was visited in April 1944 by Adolf Eichmann, a key figure in the Nazis’ final solution, the Wiesenthal Center says.

While there between 1941 and 1944, Csatary beat and brutalized Jews and sent 16,000 to their deaths in Ukraine and to the gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp, the centre said.

Currently under house arrest in Budapest, Csatary was arrested on July 18 in the Hungarian capital on information from the Wiesenthal Center.

He had fled to Canada after the war but apparently lived undisturbed in Hungary for about 15 years before he was arrested.