2012. december 4., kedd

Hagyó Suit Begins, Causes National and International Response

The first trial of the criminal proceeding against Miklós Hagyó and his partners was at the Tribunal of Kecskemét on the 13th of June in 2012. The externals of the case remind us of a staged or show trial and they wear unacceptable marks in a democracy. A very important circumstance in the case is the impartial court of Kecskemét and its appointment by politicians connected to the two-thirds governing Fidesz. I recommend my summary about the legal and political background of the Hagyó case that I attached to my letter. My current summary, which includes serious criticism from international political forums, media and legal aid organizations, is dealing with the location alteration of the coming trial.

Dr. Gergely Nagy
Freelance journalist

I.                   QUESTIONS

I need to clarify two main questions about the transference of the Hagyó case to Kecskemét:
- How can the case be transferred to Kecskemét? (Chapter II)
How is it legally possible, in a democracy, that the person, who is supported by the governing party (moreover she is the wife of a politician from the governing party), appoints the court for the accused.

- Why has the case been transferred to Kecskemét? (Chapter III)
- Why is the nice court of Kecskemét different from the others?

II. How can the case be transferred to Kecskemét?

Tünde Handó, the President of the National Judicial Office and Szájer Jószef‘s wife (Szájer is one of the members of the European Parliament), appointed the court in Kecskemét to negotiate the case of the Budapest Public Transport Company. She had an opportunity for this because the new Constitution - written by the Fidesz - gave it to her. The Fidesz initially did not want to instill this power in constitutional law but in prosecution law; the power that its own person, the 9-years-assigned Public Prosecutor can appoint court in certain cases. On the 19th of December 2011 the Constitutional Court, with its AB 166/2011 decision, annulled the provision of the law with Mária Szívós's minority report. Those who trusted in the impartiality of the jurisdiction cause solicitude. Even Mária Szívós, who kept Hagyó in prison, disagreed with this easy transferring of the cases. Because the Constitutional Court interfered that Péter Polt, the Public Prosecutor, can appoint court in a certain case, the problem has been solved in another way. On the 31st December 2010 the Parliament accepted the temporary provisions of the Constitution, and they came to effect on the 1st of January 2011.

The 11th article of the temporary provisions of the Constitution states the followings:

“(3) In the Constitution article XXVIII, section (1) to preserve the foundational right for judicial decision in reasonable time, in the event of an unsolvable imbalance within a court, the President of the National Judicial Office can assign distinct competency to a court of equal power in any case.”

With this Tünde Handó, who is the President of the National Judicial Office, has received permission to appoint a court, if the court complains about “overloading”. Court was appointed finally, and even in the Hagyó case. One day after that, Hagyó and his partners had been acquitted from the charge of the forgery of private document, and the Tribunal of the Capital City indicated that the Court was overloaded; it would transfer the case of the Budapest Public Transport Company. This was the first precedent in the country, and it concerned only two cases.

“On the 16th of January 2012, one day after the announcement of the acquittal, the Tribunal of the Capital City notified they would transfer two of their cases.  According to the Tribunal this occurred because they have 267 cases of greater significance - because of overloading. One of these two cases is the case of the Budapest Public Transport Company. Hagyó’s defender said that it was strange and miserable that from the 267 cases even the socialist politician’s case had been chosen as the equipment of the disencumbering. Tünde Handó, the new President of the National Judicial Office and Jószef Szájer‘s wife (Szájer is one of the members of the European Parliament) will make a decision about handing over the case. The President of National Judicial Office (the organization is the successor of the National Jurisdiction Council) received the right to appoint court in any case. Tünde Handó is the person who alone can exercise all of rights for appointment, transfer, dismissal and control power as well. (Source: „Repedések a Hagyó-ügyön” – Népszava, 21 January 2012)

According to Transparency International Hungary, the Association for Human Rights and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee this practice in not compatible with democracy."[Source: [„Transparency: Aggályos a Hagyó-per Kecskemétre helyezése.]- Origo, 20 February 2012], the Association for Human Rights and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee [source: "Bíróságot kijelölni veszélyes!" - tiltakozik a TASZ és a Magyar Helsinki Bizottság” – hvg.hu, 23February 2012]

On the 20 of March the juristic heading of The Guardian wrote about Tünde Handó:
“Imagine a European country where one person can pick the judges. And effectively sack them or transfer them to other courts. And draw up court rules. And initiate legislation on the courts. And hold some 60 other specified legal powers.
Now imagine that this individual has just been given a nine-year term of office. And that, even after that term is up, this hugely powerful figure will simply remain in office unless a successor can command a two-thirds majority in the country's parliament. What would you call a country like that?
The answer, of course, is Hungary. All these powers are in the hands of Tünde Handó, a former judge and president of the newly established National Judicial Office (NJO). No doubt it's pure coincidence that she is married to József Szájer, a founding member of the ruling Fidesz party and the man credited with drawing up Hungary's constitution on his iPad. Szájer resigned his posts in the domestic party when his wife was appointed in January, but remains a member of the European parliament and a key figure who briefed reporters over breakfast at the Hungarian embassy in London last month.” (source:  „Meet Tünde Handó”– The Guardian, on the 20 of March, 2012)

In March 2012 the Venice Commission prescribed conditions in 5 points for the Hungarian government in connection with the judicial reform. The third condition is the following:
“Neither the President of the National Judicial Office, nor other court leaders can get a right for transferring cases to another court, because it hurts - through the right for the legal judge – the right for fair process.” (Source: „ „Exkluzív: íme, a kőkemény feltételek Orbánéknak”]” – www.atv.hu, 12. April 2012)

II.                Why has been this Case Transferred to Kecskemét?

The most frequent question about the transference of the case is “why?” What is the difference between the court of Kecskemét and the others? The answer is the political partiality, which is evinced by the court of Kecskemét; we can say “it is evinced through paper”.

Facts from Kecskemét:

“Former Budapest Deputy Mayor Miklós Hagyó and 14 others are charged with embezzling about $70 million from the Budapest Transportation Authority and the Fidesz government is seeking a 20-year-prison term for Hagyó. His case was transferred to Kecskemét. The choice of Kecskemét has raised some eyebrows, since the president of the county court there (who will assign the case to a specific judge) was one of the few court leaders in the country who did not sign a petition to the government protesting its judicial reforms.” (Source: „ "First, Let’s Pick All the Judges".]
– New York Times, 10 March 2012)

In January 2012 the Chief Justice Péter Darák and many leaders of court (including the president of the court of Kecskemét) took part in a secret meeting in Balatonőszöd. The Curia didn’t confute that after one of the performances of the training Justice Secretary of State Róbert Répássy had appeared at the place, and he had been speaking with Péter Darák and other leaders of the judges’ corps all night.

On the 7 of March (2012??) the judge – who is the son of the former Fidesz Deputy Major of the city – informed the media about the case schedule of Miklós Hagyó in the court of Kecskemét. (Source:  „Újabb fideszes rokon az eljárásban”.] – in Népszava, 07 March 2012)

“Also in Kecskemét, not only the new ‘Fidesz relatives’ make us suspect a politically influenced process, but also the schedule of the case. According to the notice of the court, the first hearing occurs before the summer break and it will end in 18-24 months. So the first verdict will be proclaimed during the campaign of the next parliamentary and / or local governmental elections. It won’t be the first occasion that a legal process (which is negotiated in Kecskemét) will coincide with the Fidesz campaign. Previously in the case of János Zuschlag the first verdict was proclaimed in Kecskemét, exactly in March 2010, in the middle of the parliamentary voting process. (The Zuschlagcase in short: The Court of Kecskemét "has testified” its political suitability by the other determinative criminal case of the Hungarian political life. The essence of the case was again financial and political corruption: János Zuschlag, a socialist member of parliament, and others connected to the Youth Organization of the Hungarian Socialist Party  acted in criminal organization by acquiring 60-70 million forints from applications and using these funds for their own political aims. Although the amount and the gravity of the case is not so significant, this case had become dominant in the Hungarian public life by the work of the media and the court of Kecskemét (which deals with the top political affairs).  Most defendants of the case in Kecskemét had been sentenced to prison  , but  most of these sentences were eased by the Court of Appeal of Szeged. Later the Court of Appeal in Szeged identified from this verdict, that it was too strict, included a lot of mistakes, and dealt too much with the system of the relationships of the politicians. After Miklós Hagyó had not been found guilty in the forgery case in the capital city, the Hagyó case had been transferred to Kecskemét.” (Source:  „Újabb fideszes rokon az eljárásban”]– in Népszava, 07 March 2012)

Reporter: As it is known, the Zuschlag case had been negotiated here in the country of Bács-Kiskun and after that the Court of Appeal of Szeged identified that there were a lot of problems with the verdict of the Court of First Instance. For example, I mention a sentence from the 16th page of the verdict: “The management of the political youth organizations also knew about the method of money making, which was used by the network of the civil organizations (established by the defendant).” This has not been confirmed with facts yet. On the other hand, on the 20th page of the verdict, we can read the following sentence: “The Court of First Instance unnecessarily emphasized the detection of the top relationship-system of the defendants.” My question is what will happen in the Hagyó case?  Leave out this type of semblance of the political partiality?

Spokesman: We do NOTHING. By an administrative way we can do nothing. Neither the president of the court, nor any leaders of it can intermeddle into the decision of that judge, who is appointed to adjudicate the case. In this case, the Court of Appeal of Szeged will be entitled to decide it by negotiating a possible appeal. We have to separate the direction from the justice. Administratively we have opportunities only to ensure the deciding of the case in reasonable time. The judge is absolutely independent; he makes a decision according to the law and his own certitude. The Court of Appeal will process in the same way during the appeal proceeding.

Reporter: Thank you very much. [ Source: YouTube]

III.             The Present

On the 16th of April in 2012 the lawyers turned to the Constitutional Court about the proceeding of Miklós Hagyó and his partners, because the Head of the National Judicial Office had picked up the court for negotiating the case without granting any kind of remedies. One of the signers is, for example, Péter Bárándy, former Minister of Justice, and the other is János Bánáti, the President of the Chamber of the Lawyers. The petition is under evaluation.

In the recent past the reasoning of the NJO, transferring a case to another court because of a temporally-hindering imbalance, has been refuted:
“Tünde Handó, the Head of the National Judicial Office, won 4 percentage points when the Court of Kecskemét had been appointed by her for negotiating the Hagyó case instead of the court of Budapest; the rate of the important cases is 60 % in Budapest and 56 % in Kecskemét, although the official reason was the equal distribution of the cases between the courts.” (Source:  „Az ajtók záródnak! Indul a BKV-bűnper” .] – in HVG, 06 May 2012)

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