EU Forces Hungary to Deny Plans to Restore Death Penalty

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Reuters/Laszlo Balogh

Allies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have been forced to declare that the country has no plans to reintroduce the death penalty, following the outraged reaction of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz to Orbán’s suggestion, reported in The Guardian, that the death penalty should “be put on the agenda” in Hungary.

Orbán’s reference to the death penalty came in the wake of the murder of a 21-year-old female tobacco shop attendant in the southwestern town of Kaposvár, Hungary.

The death penalty was abolished in Hungary in 1990 shortly after the country emerged from communism, but the far-right Jobbik party still lobbies for its reintroduction. Orbán’s party, Fidesz, retains a strong position in the national parliament but recently lost to Jobbik in a by-election and some analysts say that his reference may have been an attempt to recoup support on the right.

The death penalty is proscribed for EU member states by Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Juncker called on Orbán to clarify his position demanding that he “must immediately make clear that this is not his intention. If it would be his intention it would be a fight.”

However, the Hungarian government has attacked The Guardian for its reporting of the Prime Minister’s press conference. International Spokesman for the Hungarian government, Zoltán Kovács , issued a defence of his leader saying :

“These claims are not only entirely unfounded and based on a series of untruths, but consciously and deliberately misconstrue the Prime Minister’s words. It is not politicians who wish to keep these issues on the agenda: it is the voters, the Hungarian people who wish this, and this is what the Prime Minister has responded to. If people talk about these issues, then politicians also need to talk about them…

“…This is not the first time in the history of [The Guardian] that it has levelled false accusations of extremism and discrimination against the Hungarian government: it has already done so in the context of the events that took place near the village of Gyöngyöspata and also in relation to the public works scheme.”

“We shall take all necessary steps in relation to The Guardian and these unfounded claims.”

Kovács expanded on his official criticism of the newspaper in a personal blog, saying:

“It seems that The Guardian could do with a little more diligence in fact-checking and respect for journalistic integrity.”