Hungarian 1956 war crimes against civilians during the former communist-era regime has led to the nation's ex-interior minister Bela Biszku, who is now 92, being sentenced to a five-year, six-month prison sentence on Tuesday.
The war crimes were reportedly related to a 1956 civilian-led revolution against the Soviet-supported regime.
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Biszku, the first high-ranking communist official to be tried since Hungary's return to democracy in 1990, was also found guilty by a Budapest court of other charges, including denying crimes committed by the communist regime — which, like denying the Holocaust, is illegal in Hungary, The Associated Press reported.
Biszku will be credited for the months spent under house arrest after he was first detained by authorities in Sept. 2012, judge Szabolcs Toth said.
The 92-year-old Biszku was a member of the Communist Party's ruling interim executive committee after the October 1956 uprising was defeated by Soviet forces. The committee created armed militias to carry out the repression, including firing indiscriminately into crowds at two rallies in December 1956 — one in Budapest and another in the town of Salgotarjan — killing 49 people.
Prosecutor Tamas Vegh, who had requested a life sentence for Biszku, said he would appeal the ruling, as will defense lawyer Gabor Magyar, seeking his client's acquittal.
Magyar, whose closing arguments lasted nearly three hours, said the timing and motivation of Biszku's trial were part of efforts by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban to "reinterpret Hungarian historical events of the 20th century for political interests."
Both the prosecution and the judge rejected the allegation.
Due to Biszku's age and frail health, frequent recesses were held during the court sessions. On Tuesday, after the closing arguments from both sides, the judge asked Biszku whether he wanted to adjourn the session or continue with the reading of the verdict.
"Let's get it over with," replied Biszku, who did not testify at the trial but proclaimed his innocence in statements made earlier and read out in court.
While the defense questioned the prosecution's claim that Biszku was personally responsible for the 1956 slayings carried out by the militias and other crimes, Vegh argued that Biszku, as well as other top communist officials, may not have been present at the scene of the killings but were the authors of "the ideological order to shoot."
Between March 1957 and September 1961, Biszku was said to have played a role influencing the outcome of the trials of more than 200 revolutionaries who were sentenced to death due to their actions against the Communist regime, prosecutors argued in the trial. Among those killed in the state executions were former Prime Minister Imre Nagy and several other anti-communist leaders.
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