Katalin Novák: All clemency decisions are inherently divisive

February 06. 2024. – 02:11 PM



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"I am disgusted by paedophilia, I consider it one of the most disgusting and serious crimes. There has been no pardon for paedophiles under my presidency, and that was the case in this instance as well. I was one of the most vocal advocates of strict action against paedophiles and the introduction of a paedophile register," Hungarian President Katalin Novák said at a press conference held on the occasion of the Armenian President's visit to Budapest on Tuesday.

She did not give a substantive answer to ATV's question as to why, on the pretext of last year's papal visit, she pardoned the former deputy director of the Bicske children's home, who used blackmail to force several residents of the home to withdraw their testimony against the pedophile director who had abused them.

The President said that there is a legal provision according to which the reasons for presidential pardon decisions are not public. " It is therefore natural that every decision on clemency raises questions and, in some cases, these questions remain unanswered, as has been the case for the past 33 years and as is the case in most countries of the world.

What we have witnessed in recent days is a political campaign that has contained many untrue allegations. All clemency decisions are inherently divisive, and when I make decisions about the hundreds of clemency applications that are put before me, I try to do so with the utmost care."

– said Katalin Novák, who stressed that she had given birth to and is raising three children and that she has always stood by Hungarian families.

"I have compassion for all victims of paedophilia, and if anyone – whether from the government or the opposition – really wants to take a meaningful stand against paedophilia and the perpetrators of paedophile crimes, I am ready to work with them now and will do so in the future" she added.

What happened in Bicske?

János V. was the director of a children's home in Bicske for 26 years, and between 2004 and 2016 he regularly sexually abused at least ten underage boys in the care of the institution. Several of his former victims testified publicly about this in 2016. The director and his deputy, Endre K. were charged a year later, in August 2017.

According to the indictment, the director forced the boys in his care, who were heavily dependent on him, to perform oral sex in exchange for various favours.

In September 2016, one of the children notified his guardian about the director sexually abusing him. The guardian immediately had the child removed from the institution and reported the incident, after which the director was immediately relieved of his duties. The director then contacted the child's cousin, who was also living in the children's home, and persuaded him to "smuggle" the child back into the home.

The child went back with his cousin, where the suspended director told him that if he wanted to continue living with his cousin (who was his next of kin), he would have to withdraw his incriminating statement. The director called in his deputy and asked him to write a statement on the child's behalf and have him sign it. The deputy did so, even though he was fully aware of what the principal had been accused of. He wrote the following:

"I made it up that we had jerked each other off and that he had done this to other children as well. The truth is that he didn't pull down my pants and didn't touch me or jerk me off. I've been taking a lot of "whippits" lately and it didn't do me much good, I wasn't thinking straight a lot of the time."

He had the child concerned sign this false statement in his own office, in the presence of the paedophile director. He was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in prison for coercion in 2019 in the first instance and in 2021 in the second instance. The director received eight years.

Guilty in the third degree, but he still does not have to serve his sentence

The fact of the pardon might not have come to light if the deputy director had not tried to challenge his prison sentence in the third degree in parallel with his application for pardon. The proceedings before the Curia were still ongoing when the pardon was granted, so the decision from last April was included in the third instance ruling in September:

“In the meantime, on 27 April 2023, the President, by her decision No. KEH/2787-6/2023 on the application for pardon submitted by the secondary co-defendant, has suspended the execution of the remainder of the sentence of imprisonment imposed in the present case for a probationary period of 5 years, she has remitted the execution of the remainder of the sentence of prohibition from employment and the ancillary sentence of prohibition from performing public duties, and has exempted the defendant from the disadvantages of a criminal record in relation to the sentence.”

Despite the presidential pardon being granted in the meantime, the Curia upheld both the first and second instance sentences. However, thanks to the pardon, the deputy director will not have to serve it and will not have a criminal record either.

The opposition is calling for Novák's resignation

In response to the case, the opposition has been talking about Fidesz' paedophile lobby and is demanding Novák's resignation. It has been reported in the press that Endre K., who was originally sentenced to three years and four months in prison for coercion, may have had connections with Fidesz. This was also suggested by Momentum MP Márton Tompos in his Facebook post on Saturday, suggesting that this may be why the deputy director was pardoned.

Bertalan Tóth, the leader of MSZP's parliamentary group, has already called for former Justice Minister Judit Varga's resignation from Fidesz’ EP list in the upcoming European Parliamentary elections. Varga's responsibility arose because, although pardoning Endre K. was Novák's decision, the request was submitted by Varga while she was still minister and for the decision to be valid, she had to countersign it.

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