Originally, the trial of former Budapest Deputy Mayor Miklós Hagyó and the other 14 associates of the Budapest Transit Company (BKV) was to be held in Hungary’s capital, Budapest. This changed, however, and since the trial’s commencement on June13, 2012 the Kecskemét Tribunal has managed the proceedings.
Why is this important?
Unlike Budapest, which is the most sympathetic city towards opposing politics in Hungary, Kecskemét
and other smaller cities comprise of Fidesz loyalists. The primary significance therefore is the perceived
impartiality of the Kecskemét Tribunal. The Kecskemét judiciary has a history of administering
questionable verdicts when defendants have had political connections opposing the currently ruling
Fidesz party. Miklós Hagyó, a former political stand-out within the socialist party, certainly falls into that
category. If convicted of the accusations, Hagyó will be dealt a 20-year prison sentence. If the biasness
of the Kecskemét judges aides in the administering of a conviction, opposing politicians and other
dissidents could be treated in a similar fashion.
How was the trial transferred from Budapest to Kecskemét?
The Fidesz party received enough votes in the 2010 election to gain a super majority presence (68%
of the seats) in the Hungarian Parliament. Shortly after that, the Fidesz-dominated Parliament passed
a new constitution. Since then, there have been a number of provisions temporarily annexed to the
constitution. Of those, a specific provision directly addressed the transfer of trials between courts.
Accepted by the Parliament on December 31, 2011, the 11th article of the temporary provisions is
translated as follows:
“(3) In the Constitution article XXVIII, section (1) to preserve the foundational right for
judicial decision in reasonable time, in the event of an unsolvable imbalance within a court,
the President of the National Judicial Office can assign distinct competency to a court of equal
power in any case.”
In other words, a trial can be moved to a different court with the purpose of ensuring a speedy decision
if the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO) approves the request.
The temporary provision, which has since been determined unconstitutional, served as one of two legal
enablers. The other was the approval of the President of the NJO.
It is not known who specifically petitioned for the transfer of the BKV trial from the Budapest Tribunal to
the court in Kecskemét. It is known, though, that the current President of the NJO is directly connected
to the Fidesz party and Prime Minister Orbán. Tünde Handó, a former judge and current president of
the newly established National Judicial Office, is the wife of the former Fidesz politician and current
Hungarian representative in the European Parliament Jószef Szájer. The European MP is credited with
drafting the new Hungarian constitution on his iPad. Handó accepted the presidential nomination in
January 2010. Szájer subsequently resigned from his domestic post.
The powerful office of the President of the NJO (PNJO) has garnered international outcry from media
bigwigs such as the New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post. Other organizations
like Transparency International Hungary, the Association for Human Rights, and the Hungarian Helsinki
Committee have criticized the constitution and the office of the PNJO. According to them, the more
than 60 powers wielded by the PNJO do not correspond to democratic principles.
The PNJO remains, though. And, Handó is still sitting in its high chair.