Hungarian officials pressed on hate speech

(JTA) – European Jewish organizations rebuked the speaker of Hungary’s parliament for the failure to punish a lawmaker who said Jews needed to be listed as “a national risk.”

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In a meeting on Jan. 17 in Budapest, Joel Rubinfeld and Tomer Orni, co-chairmen of the European Jewish Parliament and CEO of the European Jewish Union, respectively, told Hungarian Parliament Speaker Laszlo Kover that inaction “sends a negative message both to Hungarian society and the international community.”

This month, the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office dismissed a criminal complaint filed against Marton Gyongyosi of the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party for making the statement in parliament on Nov. 27.

Kover told the Jewish officials that parliament had since stiffened its house rules on abusive language and had launched an initiative to combat anti-Semitism.

The complaint against Gyongyosi was filed by Slomo Koves, who directs the Budapest-based Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation. Koves met on Jan. 15 with Hungarian Justice Minister Robert Repassy, who told him Hungary’s new penal code includes robust provisions for tackling hate speech and crimes. 

Repassy told Koves that the code, effective July 1, will allow “changes in the rules relating to incitement and crimes committed against identifiable groups,” the Hungarian foreign ministry wrote in a statement.

Koves told JTA Hungary already has strong legislation against hate crimes, but “this is not always applied in courts.” Koves asked the minister to consider adding clarifications and guidelines for judges and prosecutors.

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