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President pardons seven defendants in right-wing activist Budahazy’s case

Katalin Novak, Hungary's president, has granted a pardon to seven of the 17 defendants in the case of right-wing activist Gyorgy Budahazy and his accomplices who had been convicted for carrying out terrorist activities and other crimes more than a decade ago, the president's office said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the charges, Budahazy set up a terrorist organisation called the Hungarian Arrows to carry out attacks against lawmakers of the then ruling Socialist-Free Democrat alliance between 2007 and 2009. Budahazy and his accomplices were also charged with throwing petrol bombs at the homes of Socialist and Free Democrat politicians and their parties’ headquarters as well as Molotov cocktails at gay bars and outlets, such as a ticket office in Budapest’s 13th district.

In the summer of 2016, the municipal court of Budapest sentenced Budahazy to 13 years in prison. Of the 17 defendants, 15 were sentenced to between 5 and 13 years in prison each for terrorist activity.

This March, in the retrial of the case dismissed in 2018, the municipal court of Budapest sentenced Budahazy for 17 years in prison. Five other accomplices were handed prison sentences of more than ten years, and others of around five years.

In its statement, the president’s office said that Novak had received the defendants’ plea for mercy in mid-December, noting that “legal proceedings are still ongoing against 17 people after 13 years and the president regrets that no binding court ruling has yet been meted out” during this long time.

According to the statement, the president decided “after a careful consideration to separate the cases” of defendants who were either acquitted by the lower court or those whose acts were judged by the court “of being of lesser weight”.

The time spent under pre-trial detention and the several years of “misery” have caused a lot of suffering to those in question and their families, the statement quoted Novak as saying, adding that “in the case of seven persons I have decided to grant a presidential pardon”.

As regards the pleas of the other defendants, the president said “the correct thing for me to do is to take a decision once a binding ruling is at hand, considered the gravity of the charges against them”.

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