Photo: MTI

Protesters demand president’s resignation at Budapest demonstration

Protesters held a demonstration in Budapest on Friday, demanding the resignation of president Katalin Novak and former justice minister Judit Varga's withdrawal from public life. The demonstrators gathered in front of the interior ministry to protest against Novak's presidential pardon granted to a former deputy head of a children's home in Bicske, near Budapest, who was convicted of being an accomplice in paedophile crimes.

Addressing the demonstration organised by the National Common Will group, Edit Simko, a teacher, stressed that “we don’t hurt, humiliate or blackmail children”. She said Novak and Varga had pardoned someone “who harmed those who were the most vulnerable”.

“The veil of propaganda has fallen, and the regime’s vile morality and false faith have been exposed,” she said.

“And Katalin Novak and Judit Varga were the faces of this disgrace, and they did all this as mothers.”

Gergo Kiss, a leading member of the Unified Student Front, said Interior Minister Sandor Pinter and investigators “still have work to do” in connection with the affair. He said the state “failed children in several ways” and should at least provide compensation.

The protesters later marched across Chain Bridge to the presidential Sandor Palace for a demonstration organised by opposition Momentum.

The demonstration in front of the ministry was attended by several left-wing politicians, including Socialist Party deputy leader Gabor Harangozo and co-leader Agnes Kunhalmi, independent MEP Istvan Ujhelyi, Parbeszed’s Marta V Naszalyi, the mayor of Budapest’s 1st district, Parbeszed group leader Bence Tordai and co-leaders Timea Szabo and Rebeka Szabo, LMP deputy group leader Antal Csardi, Democratic Coalition deputy leaders Laszlo Varju and Agnes Vadai, deputy group leader Gergely Arato and Gyula Molnar.

At the protest in front of Sandor Palace, Momentum lawmaker Anna Orosz said Novak’s pardon had been an insult to the victims in the case. “It called into question our faith in a just world and the fundamental principle that we never harm children,” she added.

Orosz said they were protesting because the deputy director was pardoned after “sitting idly by for years as children were sexually abused”. The presidential pardon, she said, meant that he could now go back to being a teacher.

The majority of the victims live in difficult circumstances, but had the courage to speak out about what had happened to them, Orosz said. “And just as they were about to crawl out of the pit, they were pushed back in,” she added. “We’re here for the victims, to show solidarity with them.”

Parbeszed lawmaker Andras Jambor cited a survey that had found that 74 percent of Hungarians believe Novak should resign. He said what had happened at the children’s home was unforgiveable, and ruling Fidesz’s politicians “should have said so”.

Jambor said he was “sorry and ashamed” over what had happened, calling for “safety, a future and justice for children”.

He said his party will submit a proposal to parliament on strengthening child protection.

Rita Antoni, head of the Association for Women, said it was not just Novak and Varga who should take responsibility in the matter, but everyone who had failed to try to prevent it.

Attila Peto, a victim of sexual abuse by a priest, said Novak and Varga had “forgot to apologise to the victims”, and called on them to do so.

DK to initiate criminalising complicity in paedophile crime in European law

The opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) will turn to the European Commission initiating that any instance of assisting a paedophile crime should be defined as a crime in European law, an MEP of the party said on Friday.

DK wants a term meted out to any accomplice [in a paedophile crime] as serious as the term handed to the perpetrator of the crime itself, Klara Dobrev told an online press conference.

She called for strong guarantees preventing the release of any perpetrator who has been convicted of the sexual abuse of minors, adding that such offenders should also be prevented from going back to work with children.

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