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Former Socialist Budapest Deputy Mayor receives suspended sentence

January 28th, 2016

As the former Deputy Mayor of Budapest gets a suspended prison sentence, commentators both on Left and Right ponder the wider political implications of the court ruling.

On Tuesday, the Kecskemét Municipal Court found Miklós Hagyó, former Budapest Deputy Mayor and five other defendants guilty of embezzlement in a first instance ruling. The former Socialist politician, however, was acquitted of corruption charges. Miklós Hagyó, who has already spent a year in detention, was sentenced to two years in prison. The sentence was suspended for four years. The Chief Prosecutor announced that he would appeal against the decision.

It is hard to mete out justice in this case, István Tanács comments in Népszabadság. The left-wing columnist accuses the Prosecutor’s Office of using illegal means to pressurize the defendants. The Hagyó trial has been used as a political instrument – the current right-wing government used corruption accusations to weaken the former Socialist-Liberal coalition, Tanács suggests. He acknowledges, however, that Hagyó and other former leaders caused huge damage to Budapest, and they may have even been involved in outright corruption. Tanács accuses the current Budapest leadership of being no better than the former authorities.

In Magyar Idők, János Csontos finds the decision too lenient. By clearing Miklós Hagyó of corruption charges and handing down only a suspended sentence, the court sends the message that in Hungary even blatant corruption cases can go unpunished, the pro-government analyst contends. In an aside, Csontos thinks that the decision may also harm the governing party, as voters may come to the conclusion that the corruption charges Fidesz levelled against Socialist politicians cannot be substantiated.

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