By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungarian prosecutors have charged a former communist leader with war crimes for his involvement in crushing Hungary’s 1956 Revolution against Soviet domination.
In a statement, prosecutors said the now 92-year-old Béla Biszku was a member of the Communist Party’s Temporary Executive Committee, which set up militias to shoot at mainly unarmed protesters, killing dozens of people.
The forces opened fire at crowds in November and December of 1956, in Budapest and in the northern town of Salgotarjan, where 46 men, women and children were shot dead, according to investigators.
“The Budapest Prosecutor’s Office has today submitted to the Budapest Court of Justice an indictment in the criminal proceedings launched against Bela Biszku for war crimes and other crimes,” the prosecution said in a statement.
Hungary’s 1956 revolt against the Soviet-backed government in Budapest and its policies was seen as the first major threat to Moscow’s control of eastern Europe since the end of World War II.
Though the Revolution was crushed, it had a lasting impact on how the communist regimes of eastern Europe were perceived. Many devoted Christians were among those being targeted by Communists, ending up in prisons or losing their jobs.
The Revolution played a key role in the eventual end of the Soviet Union and its rule across the region more than three decades later, according to analysts.
Biszku, who was interior minister between 1957 and 1961, was placed under house arrest in Budapest last year. The arrest was later relaxed, but he was banned from leaving the capital.
Biszku has denied wrongdoing, saying he has “nothing to apologize” for. “I was not an interior minister during the time of the shootings in 1956. (Communist)leader János Kádár was looking for someone to carry out these actions, but I did not order it,” he said in an interview.
At least 226 people were executed for their role in the revolution, including Prime Minister Imre Nagy, whose short-lived government was brought down by the Soviet invasion.
Biszku is also accused of refusing to prosecute militia members who in March 1957 severely beat three researchers from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences for participating in the revolution.
Additionally, he was charged with the illegal possession of ammunition, as 11 bullets were found in his home during a search in September 2012.
Biszku, who faces life imprisonment, will be the first former high-ranking official expected to answer for crimes committed in the name of communism in Hungary.
News that he will be prosecuted was also announced by the center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, which has made the prosecution of former communists a key part of its policies.
A 2011 law, pushed through by Orbán’s ruling center-right Fidesz Party, allows for the prosecution of crimes committed under the communist regime.
With elections coming up next year, the government’s International Communications Office pointed out Biszku’s links to the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party, which ruled the nation for decades.
The current opposition Socialists grew out of that, following the collapse of communism in 1989.
(This BosNewsLife News story also airs via Vatican Radio. BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals from especially, but not limited to, (ex)Communist nations and other autocratically ruled states).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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