BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian prosecutors said Wednesday that a former communist minister has been charged with war crimes related to reprisals against civilians after the anti-Soviet revolution of 1956.
Bela Biszku became interior minister and a member of the communist party's ruling interim executive committee after the October 1956 uprising was quickly crushed by Soviet forces. The committee created armed militias to carry out the repression, including the shooting of 49 people at two rallies in December 1956 when they indiscriminately fired into the crowds.
Budapest Chief Prosecutor Tibor Ibolya said in a statement that Biszku's role in the repression was a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Also included in the indictment are charges against Biszku for failing to initiate criminal proceedings against militia members who in March 1957 severely beat three researchers from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences who took part in the revolution, as well as for the illegal possession of ammunition — 11 bullets found in his home during a search last September.
The 92-year-old Biszku has been under house arrest for most of the past year. If convicted, he would be the only high-ranking former communist official in Hungary to be held accountable for his actions during the Soviet-backed regime that ruled the country between the late 1940s and democratic elections in 1990.
Biszku's trial is expected to start within three months.