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Hungary defies red star verdict

June 9th, 2012

Magyar Hírlap welcomes a decision by the Hungarian government to disregard a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in favour of a Communist party official, who was found guilty in Hungary of wearing a (banned) red star symbol in public.

Mr János Fratanolo, former vice chairman of the Workers’ (Communist) Party was reprimanded by the Hungarian court for having worn the banned five-pointed red star at a Mayday demonstration in 2004. In November 2011, the International Court of Human Rights ruled that the verdict violated Mr Fratanolo’s rights. In an earlier ruling in favour of another Communist leader, Mr Attila Vajnai, the ECHR declared that “The ban was too broad in view of the multiple meanings of the red star”. The Hungarian government has refused to pay Mr Fratanolo 4000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 2,400 in costs and expenses, by the 8 June deadline set by the court. On the contrary, it passed a resolution in Parliament, declaring that Hungary would continue to ban all totalitarian symbols, including both the swastika and the red star. Hungary risks sanctions by the Council of Europe for not complying with the ruling of the ECHR.

Conservative personalities interviewed by Magyar Hírlap approve the government’s attitude. Historian Mária Schmidt says Hungary would forge history if it applied double standards in judging totalitarian regimes. Mária Wittner MP, who spent 23 years in jail after the 1956 revolution, commented that the Strasbourg judges have never lived under Communism and “have no idea about what it feels like to be afraid whenever the doorbell rings.” Political scientist Levente Boros Bánk believes that “juridically, the Strasbourg court may be right, but politically, the judgement is severely detrimental to Hungary’s national sovereignty.”

In his editorial on “deadline day”, Miklós Apáti writes that “we, the living, may smile. Unlike those who were imprisoned and hanged. It is true that they haven’t been asked to pay either.  For they have already paid for everything. We haven’t, apparently.”

On july 17 the government eventually paid the compensation it owed to Mrt Fratanolo, deducting the sum from the yearly public allowance to political parties.

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