Slovak drunk-driver sentence triggers exchange over judicial independence
(MTI) – The head of the Kuria, Hungary’s supreme court, on Thursday gave warning against politicians making statements which “could give the impression that the course of justice was impaired”.
Peter Darak said at a judicial event in Budapest that judges could not be instructed to carry out the expectations of members of other branches of power.
Darak spoke in reference to a recent case in which a court changed the detention of Eva Rezesova, a Slovak citizen who received a six-year prison sentence for causing a car accident that killed four people, to house arrest, when a non-binding ruling was issued for her.
In a video posted on his Facebook page, ruling Fidesz party group leader Antal Rogan expressed outrage about the court’s decision on Tuesday to allow Rezesova’s house arrest. In the video, Rogan asked the justice minister and the head of parliament’s constitutional committee to review the decision.
On Tuesday afternoon, Rezesova was taken out of house arrest and placed back in pre-trial detention, in a binding ruling by a Budapest court.
The Association of Hungarian Judges issued a statement on Wednesday, insisting that judges could not be given instructions to fulfill the wishes of other branches of power, referring to Rogan’s video statement. The association said Rogan’s message gave the impression that “a politician could influence the case”.
On Thursday, Gergely Barandy of the Socialist opposition told MTI in a statement that Rogan had gravely violated the principle of judicial independence and he noted that both Darak and the judges’ association had rejected his remarks. Barandy added that Tunde Hando, head of the National Judicial Office, should also make a statement and distance herself from Rogan’s remarks.
Rogan responded in a Facebook message on Thursday, saying that Hungary was a free country where opinions could be expressed, even about the judiciary.
Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics said on Thursday that the Hungarian judiciary was “correcting itself” when it quashed its earlier ruling allowing a house arrest for Rezesova. Navracsics, the justice minister, told a journalist that when the prosecution appealed the house arrest ruling, “the Hungarian judicial system corrected its mistake”. Asked if there would be law changes triggered by the case, Navracsics said if the parliamentary group prepared such a motion, it would be discussed.