Budapest (MTI) – An appeals court on Monday acquitted former Socialist defence minister Ferenc Juhász and László Fapál, former state secretary, of charges of misappropriation of funds.
Last November, a lower court handed Juhász and Fapál suspended prison terms on the charge of allocating and selling a ministry-owned apartment to Fapál in 2005-2006. Juhász was also fined 1.5 million forints (EUR 4,800) while Fapál was obliged to return 65 percent ownership of his property to the state.
Both defendants were acquitted of the corruption charge in a first-instance ruling in 2014 but the Municipal Court of Budapest said in its reasoning last year that the first-instance ruling had misinterpreted the law on misappropriation of assets which the minister was accused of having violated.
The appeals court ruled on Monday that no crime was committed by either defendant and that the transfer of the apartment had been carried out legally.
The court said the maximum charge that could have been raised against Juhasz in this case was abuse of office, but he added that the statute of limitations for that crime was three years at that time, which had expired by the time the investigation had begun.
Juhász welcomed the ruling, saying it had now been proven that he and Fapál had acted lawfully.
Fapál said the court had delivered the verdict he was expecting. He said the “most important message” behind the ruling is that “justice still works” in Hungary.
In a statement reacting to the ruling, the Socialist Party called on chief public prosecutor Péter Polt and Gyula Budai, former government commissioner in charge of uncovering abuses during the Socialist government between 2002-2010, to apologise to Juhász and Fapál.
The party said that “it is getting hard to keep track” of the number of “failed show trials” initiated against Socialist politicians since 2010.