Brussels, May 6 (MTI) – The European Parliament’s legal committee on Wednesday heard MEP Bela Kovacs, of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, behind closed doors in a case involving the potential suspension of his immunity but did not decide whether it would suggest this to the EP plenary.
Last year Peter Polt, Hungary’s public prosecutor, asked EP president Martin Schultz to suspend Kovacs’s immunity on suspicion that the Jobbik politician spied against European Union institutions.
The Constitutional Protection Office raised charges against Kovacs on suspicion that the lawmaker had regularly met Russian diplomats covertly and paid monthly visits to Moscow, the paper said, adding that this is the first time that a request has been made to lift the immunity of an MEP in connection with state secrets.
On his way out after the hearing, Kovacs said he did not want to hide behind his immunity, adding he had cooperated with the committee.
Before the hearing, he told the press that he had received documents from the Hungarian chief prosecutor’s office on Tuesday, and some of the statements in these were false. Commenting on a report in the Hungarian media about his alleged links to the Russian secret services, he said it was mainly the case of “a journalist’s soaring imagination” and threatened to launch legal proceedings once the ongoing case is concluded.
“The fact that somebody meets a great number of diplomats does not mean that they are spying,” he said.
He also said after the hearing that he was not allowed to reveal details because it was a closed hearing and the details were confidential.
Legal committee member Jozsef Szajer, of the ruling Fidesz and a deputy head of the people’s party group in the EP, said after the hearing that he found it surprising that “Jobbik, which has initiated the lifting of MPs’ immunity five times in recent years, is letting one of its representatives hide behind his immunity”.
Peter Niedermuller, an MEP of the opposition Democratic Coalition who also attended the hearing, said he did not get the impression that Kovacs had convinced the committee with his reasoning but the committee was assessing the case forensically. The committee will contact the chief public prosecutor’s office and ask for further information, as well as seeking further legal expert opinion, he added. According to Niedermuller, some further issues need to be clarified and several meetings will be held before a decision is made on suspending the immunity, likely in the next few weeks.
The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for mid-June.