A meeting of parliament’s national security committee, scheduled to be held behind closed doors to discuss issues around the Pegasus spyware, turned out to be lacking quorum as deputies of the ruling parties stayed away.
János Stummer, the head of the committee for opposition Jobbik, Socialist MP Zsolt Molnár and LMP’s Péter Ungár had talks with Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, who was to participate in the aborted meeting, and informed him that the committee would launch a comprehensive probe into cases when the body had been asked to exempt certain devices from public procurement procedures. Stummer said that if such an appeal had come before the committee in connection with the spyware, “we will find evidence”.
Stummer also said he would convene the committee for the first day of parliament’s autumn session, and proposed setting up a fact-finding investigation in connection with Pegasus.
Referring to earlier press reports suggesting that the government had used Pegasus to spy on journalists, politicians, and other public figures, Stummer said that
“the government pretends as if there were no scandal but only scare-mongering, while they are using every means to avoid political responsibility”.
He added that ruling Fidesz and the allied Christian Democratic deputies’ absence from the meeting was “sabotage”.
Stummer noted that a parliamentary fact-finding committee could not be set up in the case since the Regional Prosecutor’s Office of Investigations of Budapest was investigating the matter, but said that his committee’s opposition members would find out “if such a software was purchased in recent years, and if so, who, when, for what purpose and under what licence had used it”. He added that it must be ensured that such spyware is not applied in future as “it has no place in a country governed by the rule of law”.
Molnár suggested that though the spyware could have been procured legally, “the main question is not its purchase but … if it was abused”. He slammed the ruling parties for staying away, and interpreted their absence as “confirmation that they have something to hide”.
“Truth cannot be obliterated by technical moves such as rendering a committee meeting invalid,” Molnár said, adding that “a definitive solution could be achieved in spring 2022”, referring to the upcoming elections.
On yesterday the opposition LMP co-leader said, if politicians of ruling Fidesz do not participate at a meeting of parliament’s national security committee called for Monday to discuss the use of the Pegasus spyware, it would be an admission of the government’s responsibility in the matter.
Máté Kanász-Nagy said opposition parties had called the committee meeting to establish who used the spyware targeting several hundred Hungarian citizens, including independent journalists, opposition politicians and public figures, and to what end in recent years.
“The cabinet must deliver at the meeting an answer to the question of whether Hungarian specialised services bought and used the Pegasus spy software,” he added.
The opposition expects to learn whether Justice Minister Judit Varga or any of her predecessors cleared the programme for use, and whether Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had any knowledge of the surveillance, Kanász-Nagy said.
They would also like to know if surveillance with the spyware is ongoing, he added.