What are the expected consequences of the court decision?
I connection with the court decision considered to be “too lenient” the Fidesz wanted to call the judicature to account, however the high ranking representatives of the judicial power – involving Tünde Handó – have protested against it. The events took a dramatic turn when more judges making statements anonymously admitted that no independent judiciary exists in Hungary and the judges are exposed to the influence of their superiors. Definitely, this explains a lot in connection with the highly questionable decisions made in the BKV-case in the investigatory phase.
How did the MSZP turning their back on Hagyó react to the court decision?
After the court acquitted Hagyó of the most serious charges, the MSZP took the former socialist Deputy Lord Mayor under their protection. Better late than never, right? Well, since the story broke this was the first time that the socialist stood by their ex co-member having been dragged through the mire. Gergely Bárándy, the socialist vice-President of the legislative board stated that the charges were unfounded, they were lies. There was no Nokia-box, there was no corruption and there were no bribes. He also mentioned it more times that the Fidesz tries to increase their support by initiating show trials and unfortunately, they can always find people at the Prosecutor’s Office who are happily willing to provide assistance to the Fidesz with its methods associated with the “darkest dictatorships”. Gyurcsány referred to the Nokia-box as a smart marketing trick in an ATV program.
How did the Fidesz react to the charges?
Not surprisingly, the Fidesz took the chance to call the socialists criminals. After the MSZP stood by Hagyó, the Fidesz stated that the Opposition is full of corruption cases and they insist to their criminals. However, it was only the beginning. The Fidesz attacked the judicature for imposing “too lenient sentences”.
Does the Fidesz want to call the judicature to account?
It is understandable that the “ligh sentences” of the BKV-case got a rise out of the Fidesz. Their dissatisfaction was further increased that the court did not manage to find a culprit in the case of the scandalous red mud disaster either. It seems that even Tünde Handó, a close friend of Viktor Orban’s, failed to pick a court which would meet the interest and expectations of the Fidesz. Then it did not come as a surprise that Szilárd Németh, Member of Parliament of the Fidesz, announced that they initiate a discussion in connection with the sentences considered to be “too lenient”. He pointed out that although the Fidesz respects the liberal requirement for judicial independence they also find it important to meet the democratic requirements for transparency and accountability – if necessary through the modification of the law.
How did the public react to the idea of calling the judicature to account?
The preposition itself has made a lot of people shocked. The ambition of the Fidesz to exercise influence on the judiciary through revisions conducted by the Parliament is unacceptable. The MSZP demands that the Fidesz should stop questioning and provoking the independent judiciary and had better call Péter Polt, Chief Prosecutor, to account who bears the most responsibility for the law suit cases ended in failure and force him to resign. It is not the judiciary or the current legislation which can be blamed for the fact that the prosecutors meeting the political orders of Fidesz and their show trials ended in failure. Furthermore it is outrageous that the Fidesz is trying to place pressure on the judiciary through parliamentary revisions.
Are the prosecution trying to find excuses?
After the court decision was announced, Imre Keresztes, Chief Prosecutor of the High Prosecutor’s Office of Central Investigation, had to face with difficult questions - the journalists presented at the following press conference wanted to know why the case had got stuck with Hagyó, and his superior’s responsibility had never been examined. According to the Chief Prosecutor Gábor Demszky’s, former Lord Mayor’s, interrogation was not founded on law. Keresztes denied that the prosecution had been placed under any political pressure in the BKV-Hagyó-case, furthermore he also denied that any coercion had taken place during the related procedure. However, he did not miss to point out that in the BKV-case the “leniency of the imposed sentences violates the law”.
How did the high-ranking representatives of the judiciary power react to this?
It seems that neither the Curia nor the President of the National Office for the Judiciary thinks that Szilárd Németh is more competent in the criminal law than the professionals acquired expertise in it. The high-ranking representatives of the judiciary power protect the inviolability of their independence and all of them have expressed their criticism against the MPs of Fidesz and the prosecution (working for Fidesz).
Tünde Handó, the President of the National Office for the Judiciary said: “I would like to ask the representatives of the rest of the branches of the government to show respect towards the judicial independence and trust in the judicial responsibility.”
Péter Darák, the President of the Curia said: “The judiciary power clear of all kinds of external influence is under constitutional protection, for this very reason any statements implying a different expectation undermine the basis of the rule of law. Publicity and transparency of the judicial power do not mean that the leaders of the judiciary can be called to account in relation to individual and ongoing cases. Such an intention is against the main principles of the Fundamental Law of Hungary.
Also, it should be remembered the most important point of reference here:
Fundamental Law of Hungary, Article 26 and 28:
Judges shall be independent and only subordinated to Acts; they shall not be instructed in relation to their judicial activities (26). Everyone shall have the right to have any charge against him or her (..) adjudicated (...) in a fair and public trial by an independent and impartial court established by an Act. No one shall be considered guilty until his or her criminal liability has been established by the final decision of a court. (28)
However, unlike the President of the Curia and the National Office for Judiciary judges making statements anonymously to the hvg.hu did not protect the sanctity of their inviolable independence with the same eagerness.
Did they admit that there is no independent court?
In connection with the case more judges have admitted that they are not allowed to enjoy their independence in their decisions for a long time. According to the judges speaking up their superiors holding key positions and standing by Fidesz can easily influence their decisions by abusing their existential vulnerability. This influence is so considerable that “in some of the cases it violates the right of the involved ones to fair and public trial.” And this explains a lot in connection with the highly questionable court decisions made in the last few years.
Has the question of the court (in)dependence arisen in connection with the BKV-case, as well?
In the BKV-case many decisions suspicious of political influence have been made. Most of them can be associated with Judge Mária Szívós who automatically approved three times the prolongation of Hagyó’s pre-trial detention referring to a police report which - as it turned out later - did never exist.
Moreover, according to the judges turning to the public the court decisions can be also manipulated by the assignment of the cases. “Not everybody is trusted with the “sensitive cases”. This is what actually happened to the BKV-case, as well, when the Orbán-government enacted the possibility for reassigning cases. However, it seems that they failed to reassign the BKV-case to a court which was willing to serve the interests of the Fidesz to every extent.
The judge responsible for the case treated the case deliberately and carefully. According to the final decision made at first instance the Nokia-box never existed and the charge of involvement in criminal organization against Hagyó was also dropped.
Was the BKV-case subject to a show trial?
Basically with the decision the fact that the charge of Nokia box was fraud was accepted. The charge was signed by Zsolt Balogh in order to avoid imprisonment. As Tamás Bauer, former vice-President of the Democratic Coalition pointed out: “This is what we call show trial. The investigator who was responsible for the investigatory phase of the case is the one who is guilty just as his superiors and the leaders of the prosecutor’s office – not to mention the Chief Prosecutor, who expected the responsible investigator to force incriminatory statements for the first accused. However, according to Attila Harangozó, the vice-President of the Regional Court of Szeged, judges should be more loyal to Tünde Handó and not bite the hand that feeds them.
Did the President of the Regional Court of Szeged refer to Tünde Handó as the “hand that feeds”?
Yes, he did. In connection with the judges making statements anonymously Attila Harangozó talked about the President of the National Office for the Judiciary: “people should not attack their employers – they should not bite the hand that feeds them – it would be quite a weird idea to hold that the one who provides the conditions of their employment is the enemy”
For the first time it was unbelievable that the President of the Regional Court considers Handó as his master. Actually, he contradicted himself when he stated that the judicial leadership is unable to influence the court decisions, since how somebody cannot be influenced by his master? Supposedly, Harangozó is not aware of the fact either that the conditions of the employment of the judges are not ensured by Handó but the taxpayers. Besides, considering his position he spoke in a derogatory manner about the decisions made by the Constitutional Court and Strassbourg as well. Moreover, he referred to the Court of the Human rights as gentlemen’s club.
Did the President of the Regional Court of Szeged refer to Strasbourg as gentlemen’s club?
According to Harangozó the reassignment of the case “passed the test of legality” – this statement alone gives enough reason for worry. It means that the President missed to become informed that in its decision the Constitutional Court had found the reassignment of the case seriously violating the law or he simply thinks that the words of his “master” are above the current Hungarian legislation. His act of referring to the Court of the European Council in Strasbourg as gentlemen’s club is more than outrageous. In his position he could not afford such disrespect towards an institution occupying such a role as the Court of Strasbourg does. After all of these it gives considerable reason for further worry that the BKV-case will be heard by the Regional Court led by Harangozó at second instance.
Why does it give reason for worry that the BKV-case will be heard at second instance by the Regional Court of Szeged?
Taking Harangozó’s above statements into consideration it might not be a question anymore if the responsible judge will be loyal to the law or her/his master. Since the President of the Regional Court he is loyal to the person as his master who has already given more unlawful decisions. As the President of the National Office for the Judiciary Handó violating the Constitution ignored the right for fair trial of the involved in the cases sensitive for the Fidesz. Furthermore, she unlawfully reassigned the BKV-case twice to a court selected by them. As a consequence the case of Hagyó and his co-defendants ended up in Szeged at second instance. Following the equals like Handó=master and Strasbourg=gentlemen’s club what decision can be expected to be made in such an influential case as the BKV-case?