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Former counter-espionage officer appointed state secretary

June 26th, 2014
Liberal commentators note that former Communist secret service personnel have never really left Hungarian politics as no government has had the will to get rid of them. Earlier, a leading pro-government pundit and the organisers of the pro-government “peace marches” called for the removal of the newly appointed state secretary from the Interior Ministry.
László Tasnádi, a former high ranking communist secret agent in charge of operations among Hungarian diplomats and a control officer of agents spying on cultural and youth organizations was appointed State Secretary for law enforcement by Interior Minister Sándor Pintér last week. Tasnádi just happened to be the officer in charge of agents who reported on the iconic re-burial of Imre Nagy on June 16th 1989, when Viktor Orbán held his first important political speech. His background was revealed as early as 2009 in the centre right Heti Válasz but only this week Index.hu uncovered his role during the reburial. Before his appointment, Tasnádi served in various government agencies and the police force for most of the past twenty-five years. The organisers of the pro-government Peace Marches of the past three years have issued a statement urging the State Secretary to resign and have threatened to stage a demonstration if he does not
In Népszabadság, Sándor Révész says Tasnádi was employed by all governments in various sensitive positions and was fired only once – when as head of the Tax Agency he leaked information to opposition politicians (and others) in 2002. Révész thinks Tasnádi is a symptom of how Hungary has dealt with the former state security apparatus and its legacy: those who demanded full disclosure or the disbanding of the organization have always been a minority, he says. Neither former Socialist PM Medgyessy, nor others with similar pasts have suffered politically – public opinion is simply not sensitive to such issues in Hungary, he concludes.
In Heti Világgazdaság, a regular commentator writing under the pseudonym Elek Tokfalvi (a playful translation of Alexis de Tocqueville) goes even further. He lists a number of politicians and officials once affiliated with the Communist secret services who have been warmly embraced by Fidesz. The best known among them is former Foreign Minister János Martonyi, who has won several trials against authors who called him an agent. The court cleared him of that charge, despite occasional reports that he wrote for the counter-espionage service. In general, former agents are only seen as undesirable if political interest groups find them untrustworthy – so why should Tasnádi be a problem? Tokfalvi asks.
The first press comment on the issue came last Saturday from Zsolt Bayer, an important pundit at Magyar Hírlap, as well as the organizer of pro-government Peace Marches, in the form of a passionate diatribe against the new State Secretary. If the Index allegations are true, he wrote, “we have to return to the drawing board”. If Fidesz means business, Bayer writes, it cannot tolerate a former counter espionage officer in its government. “Something must remain intact!” he exclaims.

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