Mon, Feb 19, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Man in custody over assault on Holocaust scholar

AP , SAN FRANCISCO

A man accused of assaulting Nobel laureate and Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel at a San Francisco hotel earlier this month has been arrested in New Jersey, authorities said.

Montgomery Township police arrested Eric Hunt, 22, on Saturday, said Sergeant Guy Fillebrown. San Francisco prosecutors charged Hunt with attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse, stalking, battery and the commission of a hate crime.

He was being held without bail in the Somerset County Jail in New Jersey, awaiting extradition to San Francisco. Neither San Francisco nor New Jersey authorities knew if Hunt had an attorney yet.

"This was a brutal assault on a man who's dedicated his life to peace," District Attorney Kamala Harris said. "He was viciously attacked for who he is, and we won't stand for that."

Wiesel, 78, was a featured speaker at a Feb. 1 peace forum at a San Francisco hotel when he was approached in the lobby by a man who asked for an interview, police said.

Wiesel agreed to talk in the lobby, but the man insisted the interview be conducted in a hotel room, and got into the elevator with Wiesel. Once on the sixth floor, the suspect dragged Wiesel from the elevator. Wiesel began yelling, and the suspect ran away, police said.

Police said Hunt claimed responsibility for the attack in a posting on an anti-Semitic Web site registered in Australia.

San Francisco police Lieutenant Dan Mahoney said he does not believe Hunt belonged to a larger organization, and that the recent college graduate paid for his cross-country trip to San Francisco himself.

"He is a lone wolf and not part of an organization or group," Mahoney said.

Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II, has worked for human rights in many parts of the world and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

On Monday, Wiesel told an Italian newspaper that during the assault he feared for his life for the first time since World War II. He urged countries to take a harsher stance against those who argue that millions of Jews did not die at the hands of the Nazis.

"My incident shows a global trend," Wiesel told Corriere della Sera. "If society doesn't act immediately against these individuals, it will end up encouraging others to do the same."

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