The National Election Committee (NVB) on Friday suspended the immunity just obtained by Csaba Czeglédy, a left-wing politician and fixer, who was released from pre-trial detention the day before, after declaring his candidacy for a parliamentary seat.
The NVB’s decision is legally binding.
The lawyer who has worked for the opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) party and the Socialists was released from pre-trial detention on Thursday after being officially approved as an independent MP candidate in the April 8 general election and became eligible for immunity under Hungarian law.
Czeglédy has been under investigation for suspected defrauding of the central budget of 6 billion forints (EUR 19m), Hungary’s public prosecutor, who launched the procedure, said.
Czeglédy’s name was entered into the registry of candidates in Vas County’s first electoral district last Friday, but his candidacy only became legally binding on Thursday after the NVB rejected an appeal against it and the deadline to challenge the NVB’s decision expired.
Under Hungarian law, criminal proceedings against Czeglédy must be suspended for as long as his immunity stands, and will be continued now that it has been lifted, according to an earlier statement of the public prosecutor.
The NVB usually suspends candidates’ immunity when the criminal proceedings pertain to actions prior to the announcement of the national election and are in no relation with it.
DK said in reaction that the case surrounding Czeglédy was a way for the government to try to smear Ferenc Gyurcsany, the party’s leader.
Ruling Fidesz accuses Gyurcsány of financing Czeglédy by providing a loan through his holding company Altus.
Addressing a press conference, DK spokesman Zsolt Gréczy noted that Czeglédy had told commercial television channel Hír TV in an interview after his release on Thursday that during his time in pre-trial detention, authorities had tried to get him to give a false testimony against Gyurcsány. “This proves that Csaba Czeglédy is the victim of a politically motivated show trial and that chief public prosecutor Péter Polt is an accomplice of [Prime Minister] Viktor Orbán,” Gréczy insisted. He said the government’s aim with the Czeglédy case was to eliminate Gyurcsány as a political opponent.
Commenting on Gréczy’s presser, ruling Fidesz said in a statement that
“Czeglédy is Ferenc Gyurcsány’s man, and the case is the graft case of Gyurcsány and the whole leftist opposition.”
It is “outrageous” that DK celebrates a “large-scale tax fraudster” as a “hero”, it said. Czeglédy could only leave prison because he “blatantly abused the law with the help of Gyurcsány and the Socialists” by collecting recommendations to run as a candidate. Czeglédy “probably raked in the stolen billions for DK and his place should be in prison”, the statement said.
Commenting on NVB’s decision, Czeglédy told reporters that he “did not intend to obstruct the procedure or find the easy way out”. He noted that his pre-trial detention had been ordered because the court saw a risk of absconding. Czeglédy said now he had no intention of escaping, and “can think of no better way of proving that than being present at the NVB session and talking to the press afterwards.”
Czeglédy confirmed that he wants to run in the election and win the mandate in his Szombathely, western Hungary, constituency.
Contrary to the committee’s standpoint, Czeglédy insisted it is possible to appeal the decision, and said he would turn to the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, over the weekend.
He also insisted that he had been arrested in connection with the upcoming general election. “The ruling parties have a reason to worry about my release,” he said, adding that he “could have brought issues to light that show the ruling coalition in a completely different light.”
He said he has not yet met Gyurcsány but that the meeting could take place on Monday.