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Victims or dominos?

July 5th, 2011

A spy scandal replete with allegations of wrongdoing against two former heads of Hungary’s counter-espionage service, as well as a former Socialist cabinet minister responsible for supervising the secret services, has provoked conflicting commentaries in the press. All the more so, as the details have been classified as state secrets for the next 78 years.

In its front page editorial on Monday, Népszabadság demands immediate disclosure of more information: “The public has a right to as many details as possible…We ought to be informed exactly why they were detained.” Another article in the same paper suggests that the suspicion of espionage may be related to Hungary’s multinational oil company, MOL. During Austrian and Russian attempts to take control of MOL, the company’s computer network was subject to intrusions which resulted in the loss of data. MOL then put its system under the protection of a security agency, UD Ltd, which in turn became the target of a covert operation by the counter-espionage service. This climaxed with a public denunciation of the firm by cabinet minister György Szilvásy and a police raid in 2009, which was followed by another wave of attacks by hackers on MOL.
In a commentary in Népszabadság, Róbert Friss recalls Viktor Orbán’s talk in Kötcse (a rural retreat favoured by Fidesz for annual discussions of the philosophical background of the party) earlier this year, when the Prime Minister promised “an exciting summer, full of surprises“. This was in response to questions from his supporters asking why wrongdoers from the former administrations had still not been brought to justice.  Friss believes the latest detentions were the implementation of that promise.

In an editorial in the pro-government Magyar Nemzet, Ágnes Seszták puts the case in the context of efforts by the government to restore law and order. She does not mention the names of those involved, but hints at their case as proof that the government means business: “the arrests and detentions show that the picture is getting clearer and that the dominos are falling”.

Magyar Hírlap recalls former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Facebook comment following the detention of György Szilvásy in which the Socialist politician accused the authorities of staging a show trial against his close associate. Mr Szilvásy was once a leading official of the Communist Youth League in which Mr Gyurcsány himself held high office. He then served as a manager in one of his companies, before becoming State Secretary, then Minister of the Chancellery and finally, Minister of the Secret Services, under Mr Gyurcsány as Prime Minister.

“[Ferenc Gyurcsány] believes that his billions, his relationships and omerta [ the Mafia code of honnour] will protect him. Burnt folders and permanently deleted files also give him confidence”– Gyula T. Máté comments in Magyar Hirlap.

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