On today’s Galamus Zsófia Mihancsik wrote one of her superb opinion pieces (“The Hungarian judiciary against the country of mafiosos”) about yesterday’s stunning news that all four of the accused in the UD Zrt. case were found not guilty. The judge also gave a piece of his mind to the prosecutors about the politically motivated accusations and the shoddy investigative work. In Mihancsik’s opinion the news of the day wasn’t so much that the European Commission gave its blessing to initiating talks with the IMF but this not-guilty verdict. She called it a triumph of the still independent judiciary.
I must have talked about this disgraceful affair at least five or six times since September 12, 2008 when it became known that Fidesz, then in opposition, used a company headed by former leaders of the National Security Office to spy on the Hungarian government. The socialist government’s National Security Office became suspicious of a company called UD Zrt. and, after getting the appropriate warrants, began monitoring the company’s telephone conversations. Hundreds and hundreds of calls implicated leading members of Fidesz, including László Kövér, today speaker of the house, in the spying activities.
This was terrible news for Fidesz, at the time leading in all the opinion polls. If it turned out that the party was involved in criminal activity the case could seriously damage not only the reputation of the party but its chances of winning the elections in a year and a half. If a serious investigation had revealed culpability, important Fidesz politicians could even have ended up in jail.
Thus, Fidesz had to act immediately. Instead of going on the defense, it launched a full-fledged offense with the help of the Hungarian prosecutor’s office. I wrote about this on April 13, 2011 in “Return to the Hungarian Watergate.” To make a very long story short, the obviously guilty parties, UD Zrt. and the Fidesz politicians involved, were transformed into the injured parties and György Szilvásy, minister in charge of the secret service in the Gyurcsány administration, and Károly Tóth, MSZP deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, were sued for unlawful activities that were injurious to the good reputation of UD Zrt.
An offshoot of the UD Zrt. affair was a Fidesz attempt, again through UD Zrt., to ruin MDF and its chairman, Ibolya Dávid. One must keep in mind that Viktor Orbán held a grudge against Dávid, who refused to run in the 2006 elections on a common ticket with Fidesz. To everybody’s surprise MDF managed to cross the 5% threshold necessary for parliamentary representation. Orbán was certain that it was MDF and within MDF especially Ibolya Dávid who was responsible for his failure to become the next prime minister of Hungary. I guess that after Ferenc Gyurcsány, it is Ibolya Dávid whom Orbán hates most among his political opponents.
Fidesz through intermediaries–István Stumpf (today a judge on the constitutional court) and András Giró-Szász (today the government spokesman)–offered a couple of billion forints to a young MDF member vying for Dávid’s place as head of the party. The young man, Kornél Almássy, was picked to make sure that at the next elections MDF would not stand in Fidesz’s way. While monitoring the UD Zrt. telephone calls, a call was recorded on the very topic of the removal of Dávid from her post. This tape was subsequently sent by an unknown person to Ibolya Dávid who, without mentioning names, released the information to the public and asked the prosecutors to investigate. The prosecutors, instead of investigating UD Zrt., decided that the guilty parties were actually Ibolya Dávid and her deputy, Károly Herényi.
Károly Herényi, Ibolya Dávid, Károly Tóth and György Szilvássy
Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy and József Debreczeni sitting behind them
The two cases, which were initially independent of each other, were combined by the prosecutors, apparently for political purposes. Fidesz, which I assume was behind the whole show trial, wanted to make sure that the Dávid-led MDF, a moderate right-of-center party, was being put on trial alongside an MSZP MP and a minister of the MSZP Gyurcsány government.
According to the judge, Csaba Vasvári, the accused parties acted in the spirit of the constitution and therefore they are not guilty. On the other hand, the prosecution’s witnesses were unreliable and the indictment was inadequate, sloppy, and biased.
Yes, they were found not guilty in the lower court but those prosecutors who usually handle political cases decided that they will appeal. Whether there will be such a brave judge in charge of the case at the higher court as Csaba Vasvári was no one knows.
A lengthy interview of Ibolya Dávid by Gyögy Bolgár can be read on Galamus: “Lessons of an absurd trial.” Put it this way, Ibolya Dávid, although at the moment saying nothing about her future political plans, is fired up as a result of these past four years. She rightly pointed out in this interview and also on ATV’s “Egyenes beszéd” that the outcome of these political show trials is immaterial for those who order them. The real aim is to ruin the political careers of their rivals. Ibolya Dávid was found not guilty but the stakes go behind her individual fate. The ruination of the moderate right-of-center MDF was the goal, and Fidesz managed to achieve that.
The same is true about Szilvásy and Tóth. Szilvásy was a close political and personal friend of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Putting him in jail and parading him handcuffed strengthened the public image of MSZP as rife with criminal activities, particularly in affairs connected to Ferenc Gyurcsány. Szilvásy’s problems are far from over. He is still being accused of spying for the Russians. Another trumped up charge, in my opinion.
Meanwhile the blurring of distinctions between MDF, MSZP, and lately DK is proceeding apace. MTI in its description of the final outcome of the trial casually mentioned that in the audience one could see József Debreczeni and Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy. The reporter “helpfully” pointed that that Debreczeni today is one of the deputy chairmen of DK and that Kerék-Bárczy attended the meeting that declared the establishment of Demokrata Koalíció. HírTV’s reporter after the trial approached Ibolya Dávid and asked her whether it is true that she was offered the deputy chairmanship of DK. Dávid in no uncertain terms told the woman that she does not give interviews to HírTV. It is against her principles.
And finally a footnote to this whole disgusting affair. UD Zrt. also sued the National Security Office and the Hungarian state for 1.8 billion forints claiming damages to the owners’ personal reputations. Yesterday, on the very same day Szilvássy and Tóth were found not guilty, the Hungarian state agreed on a full settlement. UD Zrt., a company that was illegally spying on the Hungarian National Security Office and other branches of the government, will receive 1.8 billion forints of taxpayer money in compensation!! I’m sure they will be appropriately grateful to Fidesz. Incredible.