Many people think so in liberal circles. There is a serious fear that the current government party's relentless legislative activity, primarily aimed at transferring power to the current government, could put an end to the checks and balances that would limit the dictatorial tendencies of Viktor Orbán and his coterie. The signs of such plans are numerous. In fifty-six days Fidesz managed for all intents and purposes to take over all the so-called independent institutions that would provide a counterbalance to the overwhelming majority of the government party in parliament. Practically everything was put in the hands of the all-powerful Viktor Orbán. He was the one who picked the president of the republic, his own former deputy in the party; he was the one who chose two new judges for the Constitutional Court; he will be the one to select the head of the supervisory body over media affairs. And one could go on and on.
Here I will concentrate on one "small" item. A "suggestion" of János Áder, former leader of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, later, during the first Orbán government, the ruthless speaker of the house who didn't bother with parliamentary niceties and rarely allowed the opposition to speak about things he didn't want to talk about. Then for a while it seemed that Áder lost Orbán's confidence and he was shoved out of the country straight to Brussels. Mind you, he speaks no foreign languages with any fluency, although he put down English as a language in which he can carry on a conversation. However, when some enterprising youngsters phoned him and tried to speak with him in English he showed a total inability to communicate. Anyone who wants to have a good laugh should listen to that so-called conversation.
Áder is one of the founding members of Fidesz. He is the same age as László Kövér. They attended law school together and were members of the same residential college where Fidesz, first as a youth movement and later as a party, was born. It is somewhat puzzling why Viktor Orbán and company decided to use János Áder to come up with a proposal that the Fidesz caucus will put forth in parliament to be debated. And, of course, once it reaches the floor it will be adopted.
The proposal is outrageous. There is no better word for it. Let's assume that someone accuses the head of a company or a politician of fraud and the police decide that there are grounds for his arrest. This person could immediately be incarcerated and remain in jail until his case was decided on final appeal. Thus it could easily happen that an entirely innocent man accused of a non-violent crime could be jailed for years until the very slow Hungarian court system decided his final fate. And since in Hungary, unlike in the United States, the prosecution can also appeal, that procedure can be tortuously long. Some people fear that Fidesz will use this piece of legislation as the foundation for putting their political opponents into jail for years. For example, Ibolya Dávid, former head of MDF, and Ferenc Gyurcsány, former prime minister.
Of course, Áder's professed reason for such a change in the criminal code sounds much more innocent. As the law currently reads, the prosecutor's office must make the case that taking someone into custody is justified because there is a danger of escape or the person would influence witnesses if released. If the court decides that the person should be confined, he can be jailed for three months, after which the court again reviews his case. That can be repeated a number of times but in the most serious cases after four years of confinement the person must be released if his case still hasn't reached the courts. And that, says Áder, endangers the sucess of the prosecution.
According to legal scholars this proposal goes against international law which endorses the principle of a speedy trial. If a speedy trial is impossible, the accused must be released after a certain length of time pending his appearance in court. It turned out that Áder is not even familiar with current practice because the four-year limit is only applicable in the most serious cases and it almost never happens that such cases drag out that long. The current practice conforms to the European practice. Everywhere in Europe there is a limit on how long someone can be incarcerated without trial, but the experts claim that this proposed law would extend the time spent within prison walls practically indefinitely. People immediately thought of cases like that of György Hunvald and Miklós Hagyó, both socialist politicians, who could remain in jail for years on end without a final verdict ever being reached. These people are wondering whether the real reason behind the suggestion is Fidesz's desire for political retribution. Nothing would make Orbán happier than seeing Ibolya Dávid and Ferenc Gyurcsány in jail for years without ever appearing in court to clear their names.