Amazing events in Hungarian courtrooms

This is not the first time that I express my total bafflement at the Hungarian judiciary. Admittedly, I'm no expert in legal matters, but what goes on in Hungary I simply can't fathom. Partly it is my ignorance of legal thinking and practice in Europe, but putting aside differences between precedent and statutory law there are cases that defy common sense. Here is the latest.

Four years ago the police found a large marijuana field on the family property of former Olympic champion Péter Farkas (40). Farkas won the gold medal in 1992 in the 82 kg category of Greco-Roman wrestling. Apparently it was a large scale operation that provided a handsome income for Péter Farkas and his younger brother Károly. They were also capable of growing about 1,000 plants indoors. Between October 2004 and February 2006 the brothers sat in jail pending trial because of fear of escape. But then their lawyer convinced the court to release them until the trial took place. At the first trial the two brothers received a sentence of two years because they claimed that they themselves were drug addicts. They even managed to have some doctors testify that they were hooked on marijuana and received medical treatment. What happened after this is unclear to me although I tried my best to find the ins and outs of the Farkas brothers' case history. It seems that finally they were acquitted. How they ended up in court again in 2008, I really don't know, but I don't think it's all that important. Fast forward to the latest twist in the story.

This time the judges were less charitable and decided to mete out the harshest sentence a judge can give for the crime of growing over 100 marijuana plants: five to seven years. Péter got five years and his brother seven. The judge was in the middle of reading the verdict and his justification for it when younger brother Károly announced that he was feeling ill and would like to visit the bathroom. He got permission. The two policemen who were supposed to transport the convicted men to jail after sentencing were sitting in the corridor, but they didn't seem to notice that the younger Farkas was not heading toward the bathroom but toward the exit. The judge continued reading the verdict until he got tired and ordered a break. During the break Péter disappeared. Bad enough that convicted felons can simply walk out of the courthouse, but even more baffling is that according to Hungarian law the two men didn't "escape" because the judge hadn't sentenced them yet. Walking out is not a crime. That's when I start questioning the sanity of the practitioners of Hungarian law.

Poor Károly was caught within a day or so but Péter is still on the lam. Apparently with false papers. The guess is that he's somewhere in Southeast Asia, perhaps Thailand, because he thought (mistakenly) that Hungary has no extradiction treaty with Thailand. However, getting Péter back to Hungary will not be an easy matter.

And now comes the real insanity. Growing marijuana plants seems to deserve as harsh a sentence as murder. In several murder cases ridiculously light sentences were handed down. The man who was caught with homemade explosives in his car on October 23 and is accused of terrorism can await trial in the comfort of his own home. Those guys who attacked peaceful demonstrators and the policemen who defended them got suspended sentences. At the same time a young embezzler, once an MSZP parliamentary member, has been in jail awaiting trial for well over a year because according to the prosecutor he would escape. The embezzler paid back most of the money, but he seems to be more dangerous to society than the guy who made powerful explosives and carried them in his car with the obvious intention of using them. Crazy world, if you ask me.

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Odin's lost eye
The law is always a funny thing. Professor in you article you say *** “How they ended up in court again in 2008, I really don’t know, but I don’t think it’s all that important. “ *** This is vitally important. If they were charged again with the same offence then someone somewhere has ‘dropped a big one’. Even under the Hungarian Constitution, international and European law to charge someone with the same offence twice is a big ‘NO NO’. In your land and mine it is called ‘Double Jeopardy’ and is forbidden. As you remark in the first case they were acquitted and that is the end of the matter. To re-arrest them on for same offence (Growing marijuana) in the same growing period is ‘Ultra-Vires’ unless the prosecution can show that the new crop was planted after their acquittal. In your article you also refer to the problems of granting ‘bail’. This is a hoary old chestnut. My father refused to allow his name to go forward as a ‘lay magistrate’ (a little judge). One of the problems he sited was the very point about bail. Bail is normaly given if the accused is unlikely to commit another… Read more »

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