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February 10, 24

NEWS / Hungarian president under fire over pardon of man with child sex abuse-related criminal record

Hungarian President Katalin Novák is being pressured to resign after revelations that she had issued a presidential pardon of the deputy director of a state-run children’s home, who had a criminal record and had been sentenced to 3 years in prison for helping cover up the sexual abuse committed by the institution’s director against at least 10 children.

All of Hungary’s opposition parties have called for the resignation of President Novák, who holds mostly ceremonial powers and is an ally of the powerful Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Democratic Coalition, the largest opposition party, initiated an ethics proceeding against the president in parliament.

Since Novák had issued the pardon during Pope Francis’s April 2023 visit to Hungary, a Democratic Coalition lawmaker delivered a letter to the Catholic Church’s emissaries in the country to be passed on to the Pope, explaining that Novák had “served sin” by granting the pardon during that visit.

“This pardon means that from now on, he has no criminal record and has not been barred from practicing his vocation. From the moment of his pardon, he can go back to working in an orphanage,” the Democratic Coalition lawmaker, Olga Kálmán, was quoted by the Associated Press as stating. Kalmán also attacked former justice minister Judit Varga, who endorsed the presidential pardon.

Corroborating the opposition’s concerns, a sex abuse survivor took to Facebook to state that the pardon caused “deep paid and disappointment to those affected,” and that the obscurity surrounding the pardoned deputy director with the criminal record is concerning for both the victims and society at large.

President Novák denied any impropriety and rejected requests for a formal explanation of her decision.

“Under my presidency, there has not been and will not be pardons for pedophiles, as it was in this case,” the Hungarian president stated during a news conference.

At the same time, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated in a video on Facebook that he had proposed an amendment to the Hungarian constitution that would prevent anyone convicted of crimes against children from ever receiving a presidential pardon.

“There is no mercy for pedophile offenders, that is my personal belief,” Orbán stated. “It’s time to settle this issue.”

A protest against the president is set to take place in front of the presidential palace this Friday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his conservative populist Fidesz party have been in power since May 2010. He has been accused by critics of trying to abrogate the independence of the judiciary and media. Since Hungary is a parliamentary republic, executive power is held by the prime minister and his government. The president performs mostly ceremonial and representative functions.

After coming to power, Orbán pushed for the election of Pál Schmitt, a former Olympic fencer who became a sports official, as president. Schmitt became president in August 2010, but was forced to resign less than 2 years later after it was discovered that he had plagiarized his doctoral thesis. He was replaced with János Áder, a parliamentarian and close ally of Orbán, who ended up serving 2 terms totaling 10 years. Áder was thus succeeded by Katalin Novák, a former government official, who served as Minister for Family Affairs in Orbán’s government for 1 year, who has served as Hungary’s president since 2022.



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