The US Embassy in Budapest speaks out against state media's attack on visiting judges

November 04. 2022. – 08:35 PM



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The US Embassy in Budapest also responded to state media calling for the sacking of two judges for meeting with the US ambassador. In addition, the National Council of the Judiciary issued a new statement on the case.

The embassy said in a statement that the recent meeting was consistent with the normal conduct of diplomacy by the United States and other countries around the world.

„What is inconsistent with normal diplomatic practice between allies is the recent coordinated media attack on the spokesperson and international liaison of the National Judicial Council in what appears to be an effort to instill fear in those who wish to engage with representatives of the United States.” they write. They added that interference in dialogue with U.S. government officials does nothing to advance the U.S.-Hungary bilateral relationship.

In its resolution, the National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ) says that they discussed the „insulting attacks” on Tamás Matusik, the member of the NCJ responsible for international relations, and Csaba Vasvári, the NCJ's press secretary, but „there was no suggestion that the visit of the judges representing the NCJ affected their independence or that they committed any ethical offence.” János Bánáti, President of the Hungarian Chamber of Lawyers, expressed his astonishment and denounced the unjust attacks on the judges.

This is the second statement from the NCJ since the case emerged, but the US embassy has now entered what has been a days-long war of statements.

The affair began with the publication of several articles in pro-government media demanding the resignation of Vasvári and Matusik for visiting US Ambassador David Pressman.

In a statement, the National Council of the Judiciary recalled that even Tünde Handó, who is close to the government, met the US Ambassador to Budapest as President of the National Office of the Judiciary, and added that an ambassador is not primarily a politician, but the head of a diplomatic mission, i.e. he represents his own country in another state.

The President of the Curia, (the Supreme Court of Hungary), András Zs. Varga then responded to the NCJ's statement. He described the Council's statement as offensive and an attempt to „cover up the behaviour” of some members of the National Council of the Judiciary „which gave rise to public outcry”.

Varga had earlier not only opposed the publication of the statement but also claimed that it was edited by Vasvári, referring to the so-called metadata, i.e. the additional information stored in the document. The President of the Curia criticised, among other things, the fact that the members of the NCJ met Ambassador David Presmann in the embassy building, but also that he was not aware of the purpose of the meeting or that the relationship between the embassy and the Council was on the agenda.

The President of the Curia saw the meeting of the NCJ on November 2nd as an opportunity to examine and discuss what happened – the result of which was the new NCJ statement described above, which mentions at the end that Varga maintained his previously described objections.

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The translation of this article was made possible by our cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation.