Show trials under way?

In Hungarian show trials are called "koncepciós perek." There is first a concept, the decision to put somebody into jail, and then the police and the prosecutors create the "facts" that prove the person is guilty.

In today's 168 Óra there is an article by József Barát about the Orbán government's attempt to lower the retirement age of judges, including the responses of several legal experts to questions he posed. Among others Barát asked László Boros, a legal scholar, about the possible ramifications of "beheading" the justice system. Boros began his answer by saying that the dividing line between illiberal democracy and dictatorship is the existence of show trials. Hungary hasn't had any yet but, according to him, it is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Boros uttered this sentence a day before an interview was published in Népszabadság with Zsolt Császy, one of the accused in the Sukoró case. For those of you who don't remember the details, the prosecutors claim that Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai were in some way involved in a dirty deal–an exchange of property that was financially disadvantageous to the Hungarian state. The exchange of property was to take place between an Israeli-Hungarian businessman and the Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő, the office that handles the selling or renting of state properties. Császy was second-in-charge; Miklós Tátrai was the head of that organization. Both men spent half a year in jail and currently they are awaiting trial.

At the time of their release I heard an interview with both men and came to the conclusion that Orbán and company will have a difficult time with these two. They are anything but pushovers. Indeed, Császy decided to spill the beans and outright accuse the politicians of the current government of preparing a show trial. Császy didn't mince words either in his interview in Népszabadság or in his talk with Olga Kálmán last night on ATV's "Straight Talk." He said that the prosecutors' primary aim was to break them so they would give false testimony against Ferenc Gyurcsány. He refused to oblige, but he understands that some people lose their nerve as a result of the court's decision to jail them even before there is an indictment.

He spent only half a year in jail but György Hunvald, MSZP mayor of one the Budapest districts, has been in jail for two and a half years. The charge is very similar to that levelled against Császy: breach of fiduciary responsibility. As Császy said in his interview, the breach of fiduciary responsibility is about as popular and as vague a charge nowadays as "sabotage" was in Rákosi's time in the 1950s. Every time the communist party wanted to see someone in jail there came an accusation of industrial sabotage. In fact, such a sabotage case was being prepared against my own father who worked as an engineer in Komló. In a great hurry my father became "ill" and thus couldn't be fired or worse.

These cases have a rather primitive but effective script written ahead of time. The Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő or a local government asks several assessors, who come up with a reasonable price. Years later the prosecutor's office asks its own assessor, who offers a grossly inflated figure. The case is closed as far as the prosecutor's office is concerned. This is what was done in the case of Sukoró, in the case of the Moscow property, and, for that matter, in György Hunvald's case. The only thing left for them to prove is that the prime minister, the local mayor, the minister of foreign affairs, or the Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő knew all along that the property was worth billions more. And there are always people who will gladly "confess" that they knew that the difference between the low and the high price ended up in certain pockets. It is that simple.

Császy interestingly enough is an old Fidesz hand. He was present at the founding of Fidesz but didn't sign the document because basically he is not interested in politics. A few years later he did some work for the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, but after a couple of years he devoted himself entirely to professional work. He taught at the law school and was a civil servant working for various offices as legal counsel.

To the question of why Orbán and his friends want to drag him into this case he can only speculate. One possible reason is that current Fidesz politicians consider him a traitor to the cause because he worked for socialist-liberal governments. In 2009 when the Sukoró affair began the prosecutors questioned him about his early connection to Fidesz. From the interview I gathered that Császy no longer sympathizes with Fidesz which he considers, very rightly, a radically different party from the one he knew as a student. 

Császy also has a low opinion of the people who today play a leading role in the party. Either they are old communist party hacks for whom the current methods of Fidesz are a comfortable fit. After all, this is what they were accustomed to before 1990. Or they are very young and don't have the foggiest idea about how the old communist system worked.

Császy is not afraid. His family stood against the Nazis and the Communists. In the Sukoró case both anti-semitism and communist economic policy can be detected. He is ready. As for the political influence: in February 2009 a newspaper article appeared on the basis of which he figured what kind of figure the politicians would like to see attached to the Sukoró property. And behold, months later the spokesman for the prosecutor's office triumphantly announced that they have the true assessment. It was only 1% off from the one Császy came up with as the politically desirable number.

Császy said something I found interesting: if this case goes to trial the accusers will be in trouble. Ferenc Gyurcsány said the same thing a few months ago. Császy is also certain that this case will be taught in law schools all over the country. According to Császy, it has nothing to do with facts or the law. It will be a political trial. He himself is ready to go as far as Strasbourg. I believe him. 

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Paul
Guest

Some qustions:
What has stopped them putting Gyurcsány in jail so far? Is he immune as an MP, or are they worried about jailing him without better ‘proof’? Or, even with this crazy system, is their still a minimum level of evidence?
Is this preliminary period of jail the same as being on remand in the UK (better prison conditions, own clothes and money, no requirement to work, etc – but essentially the same as serving time), or is it full prison? Can prisoners contact the outside world, send out uncensored statements, take part in interviews, etc?
What happens if someone is later found innocent – is there automatic compensation?
Is there a time limit on how long you can be held like this?
And, lastly, to UK ears this seems to be barbaric and not something I would expect in a modern Western democracy, so how on earth did it get past the scrutinisation of the constitution back in 1989?

Paul
Guest

Well, it seems the answers to questions 2, 3 and 4 are: no, no and 3 years.
I just found this on the BBC web site:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-12698238

Member

The “breach of fiduciary responsibility” (hutlen kezeles) sounds vague but as far as I know it is an umbrella term for financial crimes. The charges are most of the time are kickbacks.
Also let’s point out that Hunvald was arrested during the Gyurcsany government on charges unrelated to the Sukoro deal. He ran his own racket in the 7th district according to the allegations.
The communist era show trials were always conducted behind close doors – no information was available to the public – and the defenders played in the same team as the accusers or at least were intimidated by the government. Intimidation doesn’t seem to be a problem to the Orbanistas but how will they deal with the press and the accused lawyers?
Regarding the press I really want to see the cost of these so called “investigations” especially if they don’t turn up anything. Kenny Star blew 50 million dollars to prove nothing in the US. Somebody should be picked by the press to be personally responsible.

Member

Lawyers of the accused that is …

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “Is he immune as an MP, or are they worried about jailing him without better ‘proof’?”
There is no proof and not even false testimony.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “Also let’s point out that Hunvald was arrested during the Gyurcsany government on charges unrelated to the Sukoro deal.”
No one said that it anything to do with Sukoró. That it happened during the Gyurcsány period means absolutely nothing. The prosecutors work for Fidesz. I saw an interview with Hunvald and I’m convinced that he is innocent.

Member

You mean his trial didn’t start during the previous government? Also, how can you be sure based on an interview?
About show trials in the 50s. This is from The movie Witness by Peter Bacso:



(scroll forward 1 minute)
Mr pelikan is selected to be a “witness” for a trial and he is hended over his “testimony”.
“Sorry,comrade, but this is the verdict …”
“Oh! My bad. Too many sleepless nights …”
This movie is a goldmine of analogies to the Orban government. Like the renaming mania in Budapest. In the movie they rename the Angol Park to Vidampark, to make serious blow to the “English” imperialism.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Mutt does this surprise you? The only model of government ‘His Mightiness’ (OV) knows is that of the communist era. He needs, for 6 reasons to have both Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai locked away for good and all and they will not be the only ones. These reasons are :- 1. To help cow the people further and crush opposition and dissent. 2. For winning the 2002 election. 3. To punish them for keeping Him out of office which he seems to think is his divine right. This also affects those voters rejected him. 4. To prevent either, both or anyone else from becoming the focus of a proper opposition. 5. For him and his cronies to get their sticky little fingers on their victims wealth and property. 6. To spit in the eye of the European Union and show them who really is The Boss. There is one thing which puzzles me and that is why doesn’t he impeach Gyurcsány and Bajnai and use his majority to get the verdict and sentence he wants. When (and if) he obtains absolute power what next? I fear that he will try to reverse the treaty of Trianion and start terrorist… Read more »
GW
Guest
Odin’s left eye wrote: “When (and if) he obtains absolute power what next? I fear that he will try to reverse the treaty of Trianion and start terrorist organizations in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and anywhere else who objects to what he is up to.” I don’t believe that he has any intentions in this direction. Ethnic Hungarians in the neighboring countries are only useful to Orban when they stay in the neighboring countries, providing boilerplate for domestic politics and — with the extension of citizenship to them — perhaps enough extra votes to guarantee perpetual re-election. But actually having these ethnic Hungarians move to Hungary or extending the present Hungarian borders? No way. Both moves would be economic and political catastrophes and Orban knows it very well. Just supporting the pensions of these new citizens (who never paid into the system) would bankrupt the state, then come the costs for cleanups and modernizations and integration into national road and utility networks, and all of this would have to be accomplished without help from the EU, as any such change in borders would have to be forced by Hungary, a scenario that inevitably leads to Hungary leaving or being expelled from… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest

G.W The Hungarian speaking Serbians are keen to get a Hungarian passport. Why you ask? It lets them get into the rest of the E.U. As many also speak English they will have an easier time getting work there.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “You mean his trial didn’t start during the previous government?”
The trial started about two days ago. He has been sitting in jail for two and a half years without being charged.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “Also, how can you be sure based on an interview?”
The reporter who did the very long interview was András Bánó. He asked me ahead of time to report to him what I think. I told him that my very strong impression was that he was innocent. He came to the same conclusion.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Odin: “The Hungarian speaking Serbians are keen to get a Hungarian passport.”
My impression is that relatively few people are asking for citizenship and most of those come from Serbia. For obvious reasons.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
John T
Guest

“The reporter who did the very long interview was András Bánó. He asked me ahead of time to report to him what I think. I told him that my very strong impression was that he was innocent. He came to the same conclusion.”
Eva – Let justice take its course. I’m always uncomfortable when people express a judgement either way, before the case is tried. I think there is a danger that prejudices overshadow the facts. What I don’t understand though is how this guy has already spent 2 years in jail. Surely, if the wheels of justice move so slowly, as this wasn’t a violent crime, he could have been bailed, having his passport taken away and reporting to the police regularly.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John T: “Eva – Let justice take its course.”
While I was looking for the video of the interview I found two others in which Hunvald’s lawyer says that the charges don’t stand up. On the very first day of the trial certain parts of the indictment were scrapped. Believe me the whole thing stinks.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

John T – You know the old English saying “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

Member

Well, It’s very likely that FIDESZ will not go easy on Hunvald. Let’s see how fair the trial will be. Either way he was investigated for more than a year during the MSZP government. Hi “preliminary incarceration” was extended every 3 months. Probably because even organized crime was on his list. By the way János Wieszt, the 11th district MSZP politician, who got caught on camera taking a 2 million HUF bribe is only kept under house arrest. His trial is still pending. Same defense: “I did nothing, it’s a political show trial”.
There were no serious punishments for corruption in Hungary so if they get screwed big time (IF the charges are true) I don’t mind. I can only hope that the Orbanistas will not try to create more political capital out of this. I just read somewhere that one of the MAZSIHISZ (Jewish organization) leaders were ordered to testify on the trial.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “Well, It’s very likely that FIDESZ will not go easy on Hunvald. Let’s see how fair the trial will be.”
It all depends how independent are the judges. How daring. In Poland the Kaczynski bothers’ fall was due to the court’s insistence on fairness. The question is whether the Hungarian judges follow their conscience or not.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
G.W. ‘His Mightiness’ (OV) is by instinct a conspirator and a good one. He will not listen to argument, reason and his preferred stance is one of aggression. I cannot foresee a person of that degree of aggressive ambition being content with just the dictator of Hungary. With his aggressive ambition combined with his finely honed conspiratorial instincts we have seen have lead him and will again lead him into stirring up trouble on Hungary’s borders. When ‘push comes to shove’ which it will when the Hungarian economy folds up and hyper inflation sets in he will need foreign enemies to distract the people. That is when the ‘troubles’ I have described will start up. These can probably be done without Hungarian security even knowing any of the ‘who and where’. It will be a low intensity affair; just enough to keep this part of Europe on tenter-hooks and disrupt economic development. Remember he loves to ‘play with fire’. He may link up with the Serbs who are having a problem with Kosavo. His problem with the ‘Show Trials’ is that those who really knew how to do it are now very old, retired or dead. Remember to have a… Read more »
Jano
Guest

“Eva – Let justice take its course. I’m always uncomfortable when people express a judgement either way, before the case is tried.”
Exactly. And I would be a lot more inclined to believe Eva, if her conviction of innocence would not show such strong correlation with which part of the political spectrum the politician comes. What she wrote here sharply reminds me of how kuruc.info writes about the Budaházy case.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Jano: “What she wrote here sharply reminds me of how kuruc.info writes about the Budahazy case”
I don’t appreciate the comparison. We will see but I’m almost sure that we are facing here a show trial and Hunvald’s case is not the only one.

Andy
Guest

Eva, do you think that fidesz is anti-semite? If that is true, than it is really a strange phenomenon, because there are high ranking fidesz members who r admittedly from jewish origin. If their party is anti-semitic,they should have long time resigned or not? Or moral does not exists in these circles? What do you think?

Member

@Jano Sorry, but this is a pretty dumb comparison. According to kuruc.info those guys who threw molotov cocktails on houses of politicians or gay bars are heroes.
@Andy All of the strong FIDESZ supporters I know are anti-semites. I’m fairly sure.

Paul
Guest

Anti-semite, anti-gay, anti-Roma, anti-democracy…
You name it – they’re anti just about anything.
It’s like the last 100 years hasn’t happened.

Jano
Guest

Mutt: Ok you’re right, let’s change kuruc.info to Morvai, that’s a better yet still not flattering comparison I guess.

Ron
Guest

Paul: Anti-semite, anti-gay, anti-Roma, anti-democracy…
You name it – they’re anti just about anything.
You cannot blame them for ignorance, but you can blame them for pretending to have knowledge.

Ron
Guest

You cannot blame them for ignorance, but you can blame them for pretending to have knowledge.
This was a quote by the lawyer Knoops in the case Dutch State against Marco Kroon.
Marco Kroon is the recipient of the Dutch Willemsorde (some kind of knighthood) for exceptional bravery and organisational skills in face of the enemy.
A few weeks after receiving this he was charged for drug used and trading. So far all evidence was based on loose sand, and rejected Knoops one by one.

GDF
Guest

Odin’s lost eye: “When (and if) he obtains absolute power what next? I fear that he will try to reverse the treaty of Trianion and start terrorist organisations in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and anywhere else who objects to what he is up to.”
It did not get that far yet. However, in Romania those supported by him have started a campaign against the main Hungarian party (RMDSZ), asking them to provide a detailed accounting of all the monies they spent during the last five years (implying theft of funds).
Somewhat similar to the classical American political dirty trick, one candidate asks the other one: prove that you are not a wife beater…

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Jano: “let’s change kuruc.info to Morvai, that’s a better yet still not flattering comparison I guess.”
Pardon me! Morvai is a hysterical liar who created a non-existent history of the events of September-October 2006. I, on the other hand, only suspect that show trials are under way. If the verdicts by a truly independent court will prove me wrong I will change my mind.

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