Hungary far-right party protests communist crimes

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2012 2:26 PM
Hungary far-right party protests communist crimes

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's far-right Jobbik party held a march Friday calling on the government to prosecute communist-era officials who took part in the repression that followed the defeat of the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956.

Jobbik politicians and sympathizers marched from the home of a 1950s prosecutor, whose efforts led to the execution of several revolutionaries, to the home of former interior minister Bela Biszku.

Biszku is under house arrest and suspected by prosecutors of war crimes, because as a high-ranking member of the communist government he supported decisions which led to the indiscriminate shooting of civilians at two events in December 1956.

Jobbik also wants authorities to reduce the "luxury" pensions received by former communist officials. The country's new constitution specifically allows such cuts, but so far the government has not proposed doing so.

"The people we are protesting against are murderers and traitors," Jobbik deputy Gyorgy Szilagyi said at the start of the march. "They continue to enjoy privileges to this day and live off extravagant pensions."

If his case goes to trial, Biszku would be the first high-ranking communist to face justice for the repression after the 1956 revolution. A legal expert following the case said Hungarian authorities have for years had the legal resources to charge Biszku and others, but had refrained from doing so.

"The main question is how come in 2012 they resurrected this case," said Adam Gellert, a lawyer who has been researching the issue. Asked about it when Biszku's detention was announced earlier in September, prosecutors said they had been in office for only a few months and had acted as quickly as possible.

Still, the official investigation into Biszku's past was launched only after a member of Jobbik denounced him to authorities.

Jobbik also reported the 1950s prosecutor, Gyorgy Matsik, but officials said Matsik could not be charged now because he was acting in line with laws in force at the time when he advocated for the death penalty against more than two dozen rebels.

Around 300 people were executed after the uprising was crushed by the Soviet army and thousands jailed and sent to internal exile. Some 200,000 Hungarians fled to the West during the brief revolt.

Those executed, including Prime Minister Imre Nagy who led the revolutionary government, were buried in unmarked graves. The remains of Nagy and others were identified and reburied in 1989 in a ceremony considered a milestone in the collapse of Hungary's communist system.

As for Biszku, prosecutors said they were also investigating his alleged meddling in the justice system during the hundreds of trials in the post-1956 crackdown, mostly to ensure that the harshest possible sentences were handed down.

"If you want it, you could build a very strong case against Bela Biszku," Gellert said, noting, however, that "it's a tricky case and a very hard case to prove."

While historians and legal authorities have access to many hundreds of documents tracing Biszku's career, including his time as minister and as a member of the communist party's central committee, building a sure case against him could take a long time.

"You have to connect the dots," Geller said.

While Jobbik celebrated Biszku's detention, a few weeks ago the party held a rally outside the home of another suspected war criminal.

That time, however, the demonstration was in support of Laszlo Csatary, a 97-year-old Hungarian man also under house arrest. He is being investigated by prosecutors for his alleged role as chief of an internment camp in the now Slovakian city of Kosice in 1944 and for helping to deport 12,000 Jews to Auschwitz and other Nazi deaths camps.