Show trials under way?
In Hungarian show trials are called "koncepciós perek." There is first a concept, the decision to put somebody into jail, and then the police and the prosecutors create the "facts" that prove the person is guilty.
In today's 168 Óra there is an article by József Barát about the Orbán government's attempt to lower the retirement age of judges, including the responses of several legal experts to questions he posed. Among others Barát asked László Boros, a legal scholar, about the possible ramifications of "beheading" the justice system. Boros began his answer by saying that the dividing line between illiberal democracy and dictatorship is the existence of show trials. Hungary hasn't had any yet but, according to him, it is not out of the realm of possibilities.
Boros uttered this sentence a day before an interview was published in Népszabadság with Zsolt Császy, one of the accused in the Sukoró case. For those of you who don't remember the details, the prosecutors claim that Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai were in some way involved in a dirty deal–an exchange of property that was financially disadvantageous to the Hungarian state. The exchange of property was to take place between an Israeli-Hungarian businessman and the Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő, the office that handles the selling or renting of state properties. Császy was second-in-charge; Miklós Tátrai was the head of that organization. Both men spent half a year in jail and currently they are awaiting trial.
At the time of their release I heard an interview with both men and came to the conclusion that Orbán and company will have a difficult time with these two. They are anything but pushovers. Indeed, Császy decided to spill the beans and outright accuse the politicians of the current government of preparing a show trial. Császy didn't mince words either in his interview in Népszabadság or in his talk with Olga Kálmán last night on ATV's "Straight Talk." He said that the prosecutors' primary aim was to break them so they would give false testimony against Ferenc Gyurcsány. He refused to oblige, but he understands that some people lose their nerve as a result of the court's decision to jail them even before there is an indictment.
He spent only half a year in jail but György Hunvald, MSZP mayor of one the Budapest districts, has been in jail for two and a half years. The charge is very similar to that levelled against Császy: breach of fiduciary responsibility. As Császy said in his interview, the breach of fiduciary responsibility is about as popular and as vague a charge nowadays as "sabotage" was in Rákosi's time in the 1950s. Every time the communist party wanted to see someone in jail there came an accusation of industrial sabotage. In fact, such a sabotage case was being prepared against my own father who worked as an engineer in Komló. In a great hurry my father became "ill" and thus couldn't be fired or worse.
These cases have a rather primitive but effective script written ahead of time. The Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő or a local government asks several assessors, who come up with a reasonable price. Years later the prosecutor's office asks its own assessor, who offers a grossly inflated figure. The case is closed as far as the prosecutor's office is concerned. This is what was done in the case of Sukoró, in the case of the Moscow property, and, for that matter, in György Hunvald's case. The only thing left for them to prove is that the prime minister, the local mayor, the minister of foreign affairs, or the Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő knew all along that the property was worth billions more. And there are always people who will gladly "confess" that they knew that the difference between the low and the high price ended up in certain pockets. It is that simple.
Császy interestingly enough is an old Fidesz hand. He was present at the founding of Fidesz but didn't sign the document because basically he is not interested in politics. A few years later he did some work for the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, but after a couple of years he devoted himself entirely to professional work. He taught at the law school and was a civil servant working for various offices as legal counsel.
To the question of why Orbán and his friends want to drag him into this case he can only speculate. One possible reason is that current Fidesz politicians consider him a traitor to the cause because he worked for socialist-liberal governments. In 2009 when the Sukoró affair began the prosecutors questioned him about his early connection to Fidesz. From the interview I gathered that Császy no longer sympathizes with Fidesz which he considers, very rightly, a radically different party from the one he knew as a student.
Császy also has a low opinion of the people who today play a leading role in the party. Either they are old communist party hacks for whom the current methods of Fidesz are a comfortable fit. After all, this is what they were accustomed to before 1990. Or they are very young and don't have the foggiest idea about how the old communist system worked.
Császy is not afraid. His family stood against the Nazis and the Communists. In the Sukoró case both anti-semitism and communist economic policy can be detected. He is ready. As for the political influence: in February 2009 a newspaper article appeared on the basis of which he figured what kind of figure the politicians would like to see attached to the Sukoró property. And behold, months later the spokesman for the prosecutor's office triumphantly announced that they have the true assessment. It was only 1% off from the one Császy came up with as the politically desirable number.
Császy said something I found interesting: if this case goes to trial the accusers will be in trouble. Ferenc Gyurcsány said the same thing a few months ago. Császy is also certain that this case will be taught in law schools all over the country. According to Császy, it has nothing to do with facts or the law. It will be a political trial. He himself is ready to go as far as Strasbourg. I believe him.