Yesterday morning when I decided to write about Viktor Orbán's preoccupation with Ferenc Gyurcsány I couldn't have known how appropriate this backward look would be by early evening. A few hours after I finished my article, MTI reported that the prime minister had asked the speaker of the house to make "the Balsai report available to members of parliament." Orbán thought that the availability of this report on the "brutal police attack of 2006" would give the members an opportunity to discuss the details of the report.
What is this Balsai report? In its final form it is a 142-page document in which István Balsai, former MDF minister of justice in the Antall and Boross governments who later joined Fidesz and until recently belonged to the party's right wing, outlines his indictment of Ferenc Gyurcsány and his government for their role in those allegedly brutal police attacks in September-October 2006. The report was finished by March 15, 2011 and was given to Viktor Orbán, but the prime minister for one reason or another decided to hold it back.
Just to give you an idea about how important this "investigation" is for the Orbán government, it is telling that on May 5, 2010 http://www.privatbankar.hu reported that "Here is the first move of Fidesz!" It seems that the most important step for Viktor Orbán in the middle of an economic and financial crisis was to name a commissioner charged with the study of what happened in 2006. As Orbán said, "there is no place here for caution or hesitation…. Everybody must answer for their role in this affair. There will be no exceptions. We will not pay any attention to rank, title or age." Finding out the "truth" about who is responsible for the police brutality is "just as important as saving the country from economic collapse."
The man who was named to this important post was István Balsai. I have written about this man at length, especially since he was recently named one of the new hand-picked justices for the enlarged Constitutional Court. You may recall that he wasn't exactly the favorite of the taxi driver mentioned in my September 23 piece. It is easy to dislike István Balsai.
By October 2010 Balsai was certain that on the basis of the material he had seen there was the likelihood that a criminal investigation might be initiated against Ferenc Gyurcsány. In a press conference Balsai announced that once he presents his report "it will be as clear as day that an investigation must be ordered and responsibility will be established." This is an interesting statement especially since in the next sentence he admitted that "there is no concrete document" that would prove this assertion. He was relying on his powers of deduction. An odd comment from a lawyer who should know that simple inference doesn't stand up in the court of law.
By February, Balsai's stories became more and more bizarre. In an interview on "Ma reggel" (This Morning, MTV) he came up with "witches' tales." He learned that "police units were trained to be prepared to fear the demonstrators. They were told that the demonstrators will take hostages from their ranks and perhaps they will even attack their families." When asked by the reporter who came up with these witches' tales Balsai answered: "You know exactly in whose head these ideas were born. We all know the intentions of the man were who is still a member of parliament. Without his and his minister's knowledge none of these could have happened."
By April we were told that Balsai's report full of witches' tales was already in the hands of Viktor Orbán. Péter Szijjártó promised its release once the work on the new constitution was finished. But, as usual, bits and pieces of the report leaked out. Magyar Nemzet reported on July 16, 2011 that Balsai's report contained references to "the possibility of terrorist activities." Well, that's heavy. Terrorism! The report apparently states that the brutality of the police was the logical consequence of "the Gyurcsány government's aggressive and paranoid drive for power." Now, that's really funny especially in light of the picture that emerged from independent observers of the events by the staff of the U.S. Embassy and summarized in yesterday's post.
In the report we find no more proof than what Balsai had offered in his television interview. "Gyurcsány must have given instructions to the police." Never mind that all the people involved testified before the parliamentary sub-committee investigating the events that no such order was given. As for terrorism Balsai's two-sentence "proof" is truly laughable. The argument is that the demonstrators were intimidated by the sight of the police. Some of them might have had panic attacks, or feared death. They could have thought that the police might actually use their weapons against them. If such intentions can be ascertained, the charge of terrorism will stand because even preparation for a terrorist act is considered to be a crime.
At the end of Balsai's report there are references to people who helped him in his work. Among them we find the names of those involved in the "investigation" by the Civil Jogász Bizottság of Krisztina Morvai. Another source is the far-right Nemzeti Jogvédő Alapítvány és Szolgálat.
And now let's move back to early November 2006 because to my knowledge this was the first and perhaps the only mention of Fidesz's plan to publish a book with "horrifying charges of police brutality." The information came from Zsolt Németh, who had just returned from Washington and paid a courtesy call on Ambassador April Foley. Németh was one of the founding members of Fidesz; he has served as a member of parliament ever since 1990. He was undersecretary of the foreign ministry between 1998 and 2002 and today is again filling the same position.
Németh alleged that the police had compelled individuals to sign statements that "nothing happened" as a precondition for their release from custody. (This accusation to my knowledge never made it in the campaign against the Hungarian police.) Németh contended that "the government's goal was to portray the opposition as criminals and thus alienate the public, whatever the risk to Hungarian democracy." At this point Foley commented that "Fidesz's demonstrations had attracted violent elements whatever the party's intentions." But Németh couldn't be moved. "It was all the police." He indicated that another demonstration was being planned for November 4.
So, here we are. We always suspected that Krisztina Morvai's "independent" Civil Jogász Bizottság (Civic Legal Committee) was no more than a cover, that the so-called investigation was done at the behest of Fidesz which then used it for its political ends. But we didn't know that Fidesz was planning to publish their findings. Now the cat is out of the bag. It is also likely that Fidesz paid the bills for, among other things, Morvai's frequent visits to Brussels and elsewhere to spread the bad name of the Gyurcsány government and the Hungarian police.
The campaign was surprisingly successful. In the last five years or so, Fidesz managed to falsify the history of those days. A few months ago Magyar Demokratikus Charta asked people to contribute videos, pictures, and all sorts of evidence that would assist them in setting things straight concerning the events that took place in September-October 2006.
I myself was glued to the television and watched far into the night how the "peaceful demonstrators" set cars on fire and threw rocks at the policemen who were mostly acting in self-defence.
Just as the staff of the U.S. Embassy was not moved by the story of the innocent bystanders terrorized by the police, I will never change my mind about those days. How could I? I watched for hours the frontal attack on the police by rock-throwing skinheads who smashed everything in sight. Indeed, it is time to set things straight although, judging by Balsai's report, the falsification is being intensified. The goal again is the same: to put Gyurcsány into jail.