Hungary: Ex-Interior Minister convicted of death of dozens of anti-communist fighters
Béla Biszku (age 92), the former Hungarian Interior Minister during communism, has been convicted of war crimes. A court in Hungary has sentenced him to five and a half years in prison.
The once-eminent pro-Soviet functionary is responsible, according to the indictment, for the death of dozens of Hungarians shot dead during the anti-Communist and anti-Soviet uprising in 1956. Biszku was found guilty today of other crimes, including denying the crimes committed during the communist regime.
In Hungary denial of the crimes of communism and Holocaust denial are felonies. The former politician may now appeal the verdict.
Biszku is alleged to have been a member of a commission that ordered the killing of civilians during the protests of 1956. His trial began in mid-March and has attracted a great deal of attention in the Hungarian media.
MPs from the ultra-right Jobbik party, who were behind the Justice Ministry opening up the case in 2012, sat in the first row of the overcrowded courtroom for the first hearing of the trial. Biszku has always denied all the charges.
"Béla Biszku is guilty of committing war crimes because he prompted the murder of at least one person," Judge Szabolcs Tóth declared. Biszku was also found guilty of illegal arms possession; a search of his home discovered 11 pieces of hunting ammunition.
In his written testimony, which was read to the court, Biszku rejected the characterization that he had played any role whatsoever in deciding to violently disperse the protests. He denied the other charges as well.
Wire services reported that he listened to yesterday's seven-hour deliberations with great attention. When the judge asked Biszku at the end whether he was ready for the verdict or whether he was tired and would like to postpone it, Biszku reportedly said in a decisive voice: "Let's get it over with."
The ex-minister was able to be convicted on the basis of a law promoted and enforced by the conservative Fidesz party of current Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that says the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity are not subject to time limitations. Several thousand people died during the anti-Communist uprising in Hungary in 1956.
The revolt was drowned in blood by a Soviet Army military intervention. During the subsequent purges more than 200 people were executed, 22 000 ended up in prison, and 210 00 emigrated.
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