Former Gyurcsány officials convicted of espionage

According to one of the definitions, a “show trial” is “a public trial of a political offender conducted chiefly for propagandistic purposes.” In Hungarian there is a similar word for a show trial, “kirakatper” (kirakat = shop window), but more often than not it is called “koncepciós per,” which in my opinion better describes the nature of such trials. The accusers strive during the investigation to achieve a certain end; they have a concept that guides their procedure and they force the facts to support the charge.

The show trial I’m going to talk about today isn’t a show trial in the literal sense of the word for the simple reason that the court proceedings were conducted in secret. We will not know any details for a very long time because the material gathered against the accused and the transcript of the trial will not be made public until 2041.  Moreover, a gag order was imposed on the accused. If they reveal anything whatsoever related to the case they will be charged with divulging “state secrets,” which may mean another trial and another sentence. It is a true Catch-22 situation.

In the summer of 2011 four people were accused of spying. These so-called spies were all in one way or the other involved with counterintelligence. So, the charge read, men who were supposed to defend the country against spies were actually spying themselves and passing on information to a foreign power. Four people were accused: Lajos Galambos, head of the National Security Office between 2004 and 2007; Sándor Laborc, his successor between 2007 and 2009; György Szilvásy, minister without portfolio in charge of national security; and someone who is known only as László P.

A right-wing Internet news site, Alfahír, was ecstatic at the possibility that “the shammeses of Gyurcsány might be going to jail after all.” In case you don’t know, a shammes is a sexton in the synagogue, but in Hungarian the word also signifies a lowly subordinate; it has a derogatory tinge. Magyar Hírlap, even before the verdict became known, imposed their own verdict: “Spies in the Debrecen Courthouse,” heralded the paper this morning.

Indeed, the case was sent to the Military Court in Debrecen although under normal circumstances it should have been tried in Budapest. Surely, Tünde Handó must have had good reason to send the case to Debrecen. And indeed, she should be satisfied with the results. Lajos Galambos and György Szilvásy each received jail sentences of two years and ten months, Sándor Laborc a suspended sentence of one year, and to everybody’s surprise László P. was found not guilty.

László P. was the head of a computer security firm that was hired to make the National Security Office’s computer system safe. There were too many leaks and Laborc suspected that the leaked information was ending up in the hands of the Fidesz leadership. It was Szilvásy who recommended László P. He didn’t know him personally but  heard that he was good at what he did.

espionageThose Fidesz apparatchiks who were entrusted with finding some kind of an excuse for getting even with Galambos-Laborc-Szilvásy, who were trying to put an end to Fidesz spying, must have been delighted when they discovered that László P.’s mother was a Russian whom his father married when he was a university student in the Soviet Union. Moreover, one of László P.’s  associates was “also Russian speaking,” as Magyar Nemzet discovered. Thus the plot, the concept, was hatched upon which a case could be built. Spying for Russia via László P’s firm. Yet László P. was found not guilty. I leave it to my readers’ imagination to hypothesize what might be behind this very surprising outcome.

So, let’s see what the charges were. Galambos was charged with and convicted of espionage, Szilvásy with abetment, and Laborc with complicity. Since everything surrounding the trial is secret, it is impossible to figure out what these people were really accused of.

Spying is certainly a very serious offense. According to ¶261§(1) of the Hungarian Criminal Code, someone who gathers intelligence for a foreign power will receive a sentence of from two to eight years. ¶261§(2) states that if the information passed to a foreign power happens to be top secret then the sentence will be harsher, between five and fifteen years. In this case Galambos couldn’t have revealed top secret information to anyone. As far as Szilvásy is concerned, the charge most likely was that he ordered Galambos to commit a crime. As for Laborc, we have not a clue what the charge of complicity actually means or in what way he was supposed to be complicit in this alleged affair.

The case has a long history. In the last two years hundreds of articles have been written and all sorts of conspiracy theories hatched. Many of them turned out to be sheer speculation. Unfortunately we are still speculating due to the secrecy that surrounds the case. I suspect that the decision was made early in the game to make the trial secret because the charges were bogus. I remember that sometime in late 2011 or early 2012 the parliamentary committee on national security matters convened to hear what the prosecutors had to say about this spy case. At that point Ágnes Vadai, still a member of MSZP, was a member of the committee. Of course, she couldn’t say much about it, but she indicated that the whole affair was unbelievable. Laughable, I think she called it.

One thing is sure. The National Security Office discovered that Fidesz had hired a company, UD Zrt., headed by former national security officers, to spy on the National Security Office. The telephone conversations that the National Security Office recorded proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Fidesz was setting up a kind of shadow national security office of its own. For a little while it looked as if the people involved on Fidesz’s side, László Kövér and Ervin Demeter, were in serious trouble. But if you have the prosecutor’s office in your pocket, a lot of problems can be solved.

Moreover, Viktor Orbán doesn’t forget. Once in power he decided to jail those people who tried to expose Fidesz’s illegal dirty tricks. I’m sure that originally they were hoping to implicate Ferenc Gyurcsány, but that proved to be impossible. His old friend György Szilvásy could, however, be dragged in because he recommended  László P.’s firm to the National Security Office. One could ask: why didn’t the Office itself take care of the problem? Because the top brass in the agency didn’t trust their subordinates. Some of them, they believed, were in the pay of Fidesz.

Perhaps a few years ago one could say that such speculations about Fidesz couldn’t possibly be true, but by now we’ve seen enough of the party’s mafia-like ways to understand that their earlier spying on the National Security Office was true to form. And what do you do with your political enemies? Just ask Putin.

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21 comments

  1. Rendkívül érdekes cikk!

    Köszönöm a folyamatos jo munkát!

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  2. ADER

    Just a propos of Ader’s apology to Serbs….
    What about an apology to Hungary’s jews for sending 600,000 to concentration camps in 1944 when the nazis only asked for 150,000?

  3. Outrageous and shameful. Revenge and intimidation Fidesz-style.
    Is the part about the frogmen also classified? 🙂

  4. The post fidesz courts will be busy to mete out prison sentence to orban and to all his associates.
    The Tisza, Horthy, Rakosi, Kadar and Orban regime loyalists were poisonous to the Hungarian nation.
    The nation will have to cleanse itself for eternities.

  5. For Fidesz there are two kinds of communists, those who converted to true Hungarian nationalism propagated by Orbán and others who became Social-democrats. And according to the genial comparator of Stalin’s show trials with the European parliament József Szájer, who wrote the preamble to the constitution on the way to Budapest from Brussels with his laptop, Hungarians were not responsible for the deportation of more than half a million Hungarian citizens to Auschwitz-Birkenau and of course not for the Rákosi and Kádár Regime. Hungarians were also not responsible for the 1956 revolution. Hungarians were according to that preamble only spineless totally submissive objects of foreign powers. No wonder, Dozens of Hungarian historians protested against this nonsense.
    Following this line it was easy to condemn behind closed doors with documents to be kept secretly for 80 years those Hungarian officials, who served their country under prime-minister Ferenc Gyurcsány.
    Fidesz mafia (© Bálint Magyar) tried hard to put Ferenc Gyurcsány into jail. They thought to have a wonderful reason to do that, the plan of an Israeli investor to build a casino near Lake Velence. However they failed to prove that Gyurcsány was involved. The mafia in order to deflect attention from its own crimes started a vociferous campaign against “liberal philosophers” and failed again. The public prosecutor found no reason to open procedure.
    And now this military court judgment. I hope the case will be squashed by a Hungarian superior court and if not come before the European court of Human Rights.

  6. Legal actions by today’s government in Hungary is laughable and reminds one of maladjusted kids playing with matches in the school yard after school, torturing
    helpless bugs…How else to describe a prosecutor’s statement (Balint’s?) after the case against Gyurcsany was dropped that, “We know he’s guilty, but have yet
    to find the proof…” ? One cringes at the repercussions of such a statement in a civilized country.

    Of course, in dear Hungary, Lady Justice has thrown away her scale and blindfold and gone back to her steady job as a harlot in a shady, mid-town district.

  7. @Karl Pfeifer: the trials in respect of the casino regarding lake valence are still pending. there are numerous of them. each of them are show trials and yet there was no proof either in criminal or civil proceedings that the investors did something wrong or unlawful. one could by the way easily follow the hearings bc after each of them there is a change in law…

  8. DH they could not connect Ferenc Gyurcsány to this affair. Orbán hopes with such show trials against the “libsibolsi” to win the elections 2014.

  9. OT (maybe not): THe new Hungarian airline will be called (wait for it…….) Solyom! If you do not speak Hungarian, just try to say it anyway. Solyom means falcon, or falke in German. It is not a budget airline. The money is coming from investors from the East and they will compete with the Turkish Airlines and with the Emirates. It will likely push out other airlines from Liszt Ferenc, Terminal 1.
    Now the interesting things is that the head of this venture is Jozsef Vago, the man who the Jobbik and Fidesz tried to crucify as Russian/Israeli spy back in 2010 when “Israeli spy planes flew uninvited and unannounced over Budapest the same day a Syrian man was shot to death in his car”. It was known that supposedly Vago had some ties to Gyurcsany. He was fired from his position immediately. He was fired, somehow crucified and now, he is free to start up the National airlines with support of Orban? I find it very strange. I wonder how much money the Hungarian government put towards this, and who are really behind this Hungarian National venture? How long it will be before Vago will be tried for treason or for spying if Orban stays in office in 2014? Any info would be welcomed.

  10. Don’t you think that calling a trial show trial would require at least some evidence from your part?
    That the outcome is not to your liking does not qualify.

  11. Some1 :
    OT (maybe not): THe new Hungarian airline will be called (wait for it…….) Solyom! If you do not speak Hungarian, just try to say it anyway. Solyom means falcon, or falke in German. It is not a budget airline. The money is coming from investors from the East and they will compete with the Turkish Airlines and with the Emirates. It will likely push out other airlines from Liszt Ferenc, Terminal 1.

    First, Wizz has come in with so many new routes that it will be difficult for them to compete. IMHO, Wizz is the new Hungarian airline. Also, terminal 1 is dormant. Everyone flys from T2. Third, do you seriously know what it will take to compete with either of the two aforementioned airlines? IMHO it will be very difficult to get this turkey to fly.

  12. I would call it a “show judgement” rather than a “show trial”. It is a judgement that may or may not be legally sound but it is nevertheless a judgement which the Orban Mafia do not want to expose to the daylight of independent scrutiny.

    Hungary is not yet a dictatorship, I can sit in Simpla on a Friday night and join with probably the majority of the pub in calling Orban a fascist dictator and not worry too much that we are going to be pulled off to jail by his stormtroopers. If anything, I would even say that culturally (from an independent as opposed to state pov) is presently as liberal as I have seen it any point during my time here.

    However, elements of a dictatorship are in place and this kind of episode happening (not by accident) on a Friday in July when many NGOs and western journalists have signed off the weekend or are on holiday doesn’t make me sleep any easier. The fact that the vast majority of the unquestioning incompetent morons, which Orban has put in place to enforce his diktats, are incapable of organizing a piss/up in the brewery doesn’t really change that fact

  13. Johnny Boy :
    Don’t you think that calling a trial show trial would require at least some evidence from your part?
    That the outcome is not to your liking does not qualify.

    Let me guess..releasing any information about he charges, and about any proof. Previous cases where Fidesz promised overwhelming evidence against opposition members than came up with nothing, and they lost. Holding people in jail without any concrete charges sometimes for months. Would that qualify in your book as some sort of evidence for a show trial? Not in your book of course. Fidesz is just like you, stop to correspond when there is an overwhelming evidence against them. They just cannot deal with facts and proof, so they just dismiss it.

  14. LwiiH :

    Some1 :
    OT (maybe not): THe new Hungarian airline will be called (wait for it…….) Solyom! If you do not speak Hungarian, just try to say it anyway. Solyom means falcon, or falke in German. It is not a budget airline. The money is coming from investors from the East and they will compete with the Turkish Airlines and with the Emirates. It will likely push out other airlines from Liszt Ferenc, Terminal 1.

    First, Wizz has come in with so many new routes that it will be difficult for them to compete. IMHO, Wizz is the new Hungarian airline. Also, terminal 1 is dormant. Everyone flys from T2. Third, do you seriously know what it will take to compete with either of the two aforementioned airlines? IMHO it will be very difficult to get this turkey to fly.

    Are you asking me if I know what it takes to compete? Do not ask me. I find this venture dead.

  15. The trial was sent to Debrecen for two reasons.

    First, Eastern Hungary courts are generally much more stricter in handing out sentences,

    So interestingly, all “serious” criminal cases which should have been tried in Budapest originally, but which were transferred to the countryside as per the decision of Tünde Handó (wife of Fidesz honcho József Szájer, and best pal of Orbán Viktor’r wife) pursuant to the special and controversial powers she received under the new constitution were transferred to Eastern Hungarian courts (civil litigations were transferred to West Hungarian courts in some cases).

    In addition, Debrecen, Hungary’s second biggest town is also a Fidesz stronghold where the local power constitutencies are stounchly Fidesz leaning and are generally very conservative and deeply hate MSZP.

    Tünde Handó thoroughly shopped around and it was a not a conincidence that she chose Debrecen, ie. she knew the judges by reputation.

    Moreover, given the territorial competence/jurisdiction rules the appeal will also be heard in Debrecen. Only the third instance will be in Budapest. But if the appeal affirms the decision the defendants will be taken in to custody even if the third instance eventually acquuits them.

    That said, if the case is really that nuts and Kafkaesque (which you can be sure of if you follow the UD Zrt. litigation involving the victims as defendents, yes this is not a mistake, with the former MDF politicians) and ridiculous, why don’t they reveal the case? If it is leaked correctly I am pretty sure it cannot be proven legally (see the Öszöd leak where no leaker can be established beyond reasonable doubts) that the defendants did it. And I am sure there is nothing really important in the matter, the case is made secret solely for political reasons, not for real national security reaosns (by the way the case is classified for 80 years).

  16. Did anyone watched some news channel, broadcasting about this trial?

    I don’t know, how you felt, but I certainly got those mid-fifties déjà vu feelings, just look at those people.Take away some color, and you are in 1955, the glorious Rákosi era, instantaneously

    Here we go again, folks!

  17. LwiiH :

    Some1 :
    OT (maybe not): THe new Hungarian airline will be called (wait for it…….) Solyom! If you do not speak Hungarian, just try to say it anyway. Solyom means falcon, or falke in German. It is not a budget airline. The money is coming from investors from the East and they will compete with the Turkish Airlines and with the Emirates. It will likely push out other airlines from Liszt Ferenc, Terminal 1.

    First, Wizz has come in with so many new routes that it will be difficult for them to compete. IMHO, Wizz is the new Hungarian airline. Also, terminal 1 is dormant. Everyone flys from T2. Third, do you seriously know what it will take to compete with either of the two aforementioned airlines? IMHO it will be very difficult to get this turkey to fly.

    I’ll second Some1 – the name “Sólyom” internationally is a disaster by design, doomed from day one, red-white-gren planes or not. In this respect even the “Turul” would have worked better (then you could have saved on the green paint too..), if the ornithology must be involved at any price.
    Another possibility would be to buy off the “SAS” – another bird, after all (in hungarian ‘sas’ means ‘eagle’), but Sólyom..?

    Whom are those guys thinking to talk to?

  18. In Hungarian there is a similar word for a show trial, “kirakatper” (kirakat = shop window), but more often than not it is called “koncepciós per”

    Oh come on, you are confusing different terms here. A koncepciós per is a purge trial – i.e. a trial that conducted according to a predefined “concept,” often a carefully and meticulously drafted script. It usually takes the form of a show trial (but not always – some purge trials were conducted in secret; think of Imre Nagy’s, for example). A show trial or kirakatper is conducted with much fanfare – often broadcast live on radio or television. Again, most show trials are purge trials – but there are exceptions. Think of the case of the U-2 pilot whose aircraft was downed in Soviet airspace. He got a massive show trial – but it wasn’t a purge trial. After all, he was guilty of espionage.

    So, think of the terms show trial and purge trial as two sets in a Venn diagram. These sets have a fairly large intersection but they still are separate sets, i.e. different terms with distinct meanings.

  19. @Tyrker I must say this is a unique interpretation of the alleged difference between kirakatper and koncepciós per. Take a look at the Magyar Értelmező Szótár.

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