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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 6038

Zentai, Mr Charles

(Question No. 281)

Ms Julie Bishop asked the Minister for Justice, in writing, on 21 March 2011:

(1) When he decided on 12 November 2009 to approve the extradition of Australian citizen Mr Charles Zentai to the Republic of Hungary, was he aware of the following information that had been provided to his department and office, that the: (a) Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) had advised the Australian Federal police (AFP) that there was no evidence to support a charge against Mr Zentai of a war crime (or any other crime); (b) CDPP and the AFP had decided not to prosecute Mr Zentai for the alleged war crime, although if there had been sufficient evidence to support a charge, it would have been open to the Australian authorities to charge Mr Zentai and have him tried in Australia, rather than extradite him; and (c) Republic of Hungary only wanted Mr Zentai to be extradited for questioning, as no charge has been laid against him.

(2) If so, did he consider this information before approving Mr Zentai’s extradition to Hungary, and what were his reasons for making the determination.

(3) If not, was he made aware of this information after the Hon. Justice Neil McKerracher set aside, in December 2010, the Minister’s determination to extradite Mr Zentai to Hungary, and why did the Minister then authorise an appeal against Justice McKerracher’s decision?

Mr Brendan O'Connor: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) As set out in the judgment of His Honour Justice McKerracher in Zentai v Honourable Brendan O’Connor (No 3) [2010] FCA 691, prior to making a surrender determination in respect of Mr Zentai, the Minister was provided with a submission (annexing relevant documentation) prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department. The submission discussed advice provided by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to the Australian Federal Police on evidentiary issues relating to the allegations against Mr Zentai and also discussed the basis on which the Republic of Hungary sought Mr Zentai’s extradition. As the issues raised by the honourable member are the subject of proceedings currently before the Full Court of the Federal Court, it is not appropriate to comment further.

(2) The submission prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department referred to in response to Question (1) above was before the Minister at the time he determined that Mr Zentai was to be surrendered to Hungary to face prosecution for a war crime. In view of the issues raised in litigation presently before the Full Court of the Federal Court in this matter, it is not appropriate to comment further.

(3) The decision of Mr Justice McKerracher of 2 July 2010 raises significant and complex issues for the administration of Australia’s extradition scheme. It is appropriate that an appeal be pursued.