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Ex Hungary leader charged with war crimes

17 October 2013, 08:02

Budapest - Hungarian prosecutors filed war crimes charges on Wednesday against Bela Biszku, a former communist leader, for his conduct in the aftermath of the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Budapest.

The 92 year old is accused of "active involvement" in the decisions to order security forces to open fire on crowds in two incidents in December 1956 during which about 50 people were killed.

Arrested in September last year and under house arrest since then, he is the first of the 1956 communist leaders to face a criminal inquiry.

"A member of the narrowest circle of party leadership," his actions constituted "war crimes as an abettor and homicide against more than one person," the prosecutors' office said in a statement.

Biszku, a prominent communist party leader who went on to become interior minister in 1957, has also been charged with "complicity in criminal acts" for covering up reprisals after the Soviet Union crushed the uprising.

He has denied the charges, for which he could face a life sentence, said Budapest's chief prosecutor, Tibor Ibolya.

In 2011, the conservative government led by Viktor Orban modified a law to enable people suspected of involvement in the 1956 reprisals to be tried in court.

The uprising began after a student demonstration on 23 October 1956. By November 4, however, it had been bloodily crushed by tanks sent by Moscow.

More than 2 000 civilians were killed during the fighting, while around 200 000 people fled the country.

About 300 people were executed, and more than 20 000 jailed in the aftermath of the uprising.



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