It was on June 12 that President János Áder appointed the third Orbán government’s undersecretaries. There are so many of them that the ceremony had to be held in one of the bigger rooms of the Hungarian Parliament. Among the appointees was László Tasnádi, one of the four undersecretaries in the Ministry of the Interior. He will be responsible for the civilian supervision of the Hungarian police force. Tasnádi is a trusted associate of the minister of the interior, Sándor Pintér. In the last four years Tasnádi was the Pintér’s chief-of-staff.
Tasnádi is actually a high-ranking police officer who, according to his official biography, began his career in the Budapest police force in 1978 and remained an active officer until 1990 with the rank of captain (százados). By now he is a brigadier-general, a rank he received last year. According to the same official bio, he held high positions in the Ministry of the Interior and in APEH, the equivalent of the US Internal Revenue Service, between 1998 and 2002. After Fidesz lost the election, he joined Sándor Pintér’s business venture, a security firm. As soon as Viktor Orbán won the election in 2010, Pintér returned to the Ministry of the Interior with Tasnádi in tow. In June 2014 Pintér became minister of the interior for the third time and Tasnádi got promoted to be one of his undersecretaries.
A week after Tasnádi’s appointment became official, Index unearthed a few details about his past. It turned out that on June 16, 1989, when Viktor Orbán was sending the Russians packing, Tasnádi was waiting for the reports of two of his agents, Amur and Vera. By now we know quite a bit about Amur. He was born in 1930, was a tailor’s apprentice who got involved with the illegal communist party, and in 1952 became an officer of the infamous ÁVH (Államvédelmi Hivatal = State Defense Office). By the 60s and 70s he served at the Hungarian embassies in Paris and Geneva. He retired with the rank of colonel a few months before the reburial of Imre Nagy, but because a large crowd was expected retired personnel were also called up for the occasion. Details about Vera are not known.
Tasnádi in his very brief official bio on the website of the Ministry of the Interior simply reports that he left the Budapest police force in 1990 where he was the director of one of the “sub-departments” (alosztály). Indeed he was, but what kind of a sub-department are we talking about? It was the “D sub-department” of the III/II department (counter-intelligence) that was involved with “domestic enemies,” people who were suspected of hostile activities in the churches and in cultural fields. The department also reported on diplomats.
Interestingly, one of the first outcries after the publication of the Index article came from the right. Zsolt Bayer, the foul-mouthed anti-Semitic journalist of Magyar Hírlap, announced on his program Korrektúra on EchoTV that if Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy (2002-2004) was unacceptable to Fidesz because he was a counter-intelligence officer of the III/II Department, László Tasnádi should be as well. Tasnádi, however, announced a few hours after the Index article appeared that he has no intention of resigning. He was an honest counter-intelligence officer and what he did is “a profession” like any other. He is proud of his service to Hungary. The members of the opposition were not impressed: they demanded his resignation.
On June 24 even the Civil Összefogás Fórum (CÖF), the phony NGO that organized the pro-government peace marches, demanded Tasnádi’s resignation. The leaders of the group indicated that if Tasnádi is not ready to retire quietly they will exert more pressure “for the sake of strengthening the moral foundations of democracy.” They did not spell out what kind of pressure they had in mind. In addition, other pro-government journalists raised their voices against the Tasnádi appointment. Perhaps the most vitriolic was a spoof by András Stumpf in Válasz (aka Heti Válasz) in which he makes fun of certain right-wing journalists who try to defend Tasnádi. Stumpf also calls attention to a Heti Válasz article from 2009 in which Tasnádi, along with 49 other officers, was mentioned.
Naturally, liberal journalists were appalled. Sándor Révész of Népszabadság pointed out with bitter irony that, after all, Tasnádi is in the right place. In the service of dictatorship he harassed Hungarians involved in the cultural field or connected to the churches while he kept an eye on diplomats who were helping the members of the human rights movement. Now he can do the same thing again.
CÖF only yesterday made public another declaration about the Tasnádi affair. This time they ask the Ministry of Justice to prepare a bill that would make appointments of earlier “functionaries” impossible. This is, of course, far too sweeping. Who is considered to be a functionary? I hope that no such bill will be presented before the voting machine of the Orbán parliament. But members of the security forces of the dictatorship have no place in the government of an alleged democratic state.
It was the Demokratikus Koalíció who asked the most important question in connection with the Tasnádi case. Tasnádi is today an undersecretary because he has been favored by the minister of the interior who was himself a high-ranking police officer during the Kádár regime and as such was a party member. DK is wondering, and with good reason, about the connection between Sándor Pintér and Viktor Orbán. Why is it that Sándor Pintér seems to be the everlasting minister of the interior? This is now the third Orbán government in which Pintér serves as minister of interior. As the DK communiqué pointed out, Pintér is the only man who has been a minister for every minute of the Orbán governments. What is so special about this man? And DK pointedly asks: what does Pintér know about Viktor Orbán that he can allow himself to appoint a man like Tasnádi to be his deputy?
I wrote about Pintér several times before and in one post I outlined the many rumors swirling around him. One of these rumors is that Pintér had a hand in or had knowledge of a series of suspicious bombings at the houses of Fidesz politicians just before the election in 1998. They were suspicious because as soon the election was over and Fidesz won, these terrorist activities abruptly ceased. As if they were ordered by someone or someones to create chaos and give the impression that the MSZP-SZDSZ administration was unable to handle the situation. At the same time they created sympathy for Fidesz and Smallholder politicians against whom these attacks were directed. This might be one possibility, but given the less than savory activities of Fidesz politicians in the past, it can be many other things that would be deadly if revealed.
We will see whether this case will also be ignored by the administration or perhaps, given the outcry on the right, Pintér will have to retreat and let his friend the security agent go.