On Friday, a Budapest court fined opposition LMP lawmaker Márta Demeter 1.8 million forints (EUR 4,800) on charges of abusing her office. The prosecutor accepted the verdict, but Márta Demeter and her lawyer appealed, therefore the first instance verdict is not final.
In October 2018, Demeter, at the time vice-chair of parliament’s defense and law enforcement committee delegated by opposition LMP, had acquired information concerning the movement of Airbus operated by the Hungarian army. In the flight log, which she was informed was not public information, the lawmaker saw the name Flóra Orbán.
The MP then submitted questions to the interior and defense ministers asking them why a minor named Flóra Orbán, whom Demeter had wrongly assumed to be Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s daughter, had been allowed to travel on a Hungarian military plane. (At the time, there were several press reports about the Prime Minister allegedly using some of the Hungarian army’s “luxury aircrafts” for his or his family’s private purposes).
A later investigation found that a Hungarian soldier, also named Orbán, and his family had been among passengers of that flight. Apart from falsely claiming that the aircraft had carried a family member of the Prime Minister unlawfully, Demeter also “disclosed data that could not be published out of the public interest,” the prosecutor said when pressing charges against the deputy.
After the incident, governing Fidesz pressed charges against the LMP lawmaker and turned to the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information. The latter found that the military documents Demeter had examined did not contain any facts or circumstances, other than the identical name, that could lead to the conclusion the politician had reached.
Parliament also removed Márta Demeter from her position as vice-chair of the committee and her membership in the committee, after she failed her national security clearance initiated by internal security intelligence agency AH. Her parliamentary immunity was also revoked.
The prosecutor’s office brought charges against the LMP MP for official misconduct in December 2019. The prosecution proposed that if Demeter admits to the crime, she be fined HUF 2 million. Demeter did not plead guilty and did not waive her right to trial.
Demeter defended herself by saying that her job as a Member of Parliament is to monitor the functioning of the executive branch. She said that it was absurd to portray this activity as an abuse of office.
In the Hungarian press, it is widely alleged that Demeter leaked classified information, but this is not the case. Last October, the representative won a civil lawsuit launched against then government spokesman István Hollik over his 2019 statement. The Fidesz politician earlier claimed that Demeter had leaked classified data as vice-chair of the defense and law enforcement committee in order to gain an advantage in party politics. The court, however, ruled that Demeter is entitled to an apology for these claims.
Demeter is formerly a representative of the Socialist party (MSZP), who joined LMP in 2018. During the opposition primaries she was running as a candidate of LMP, but with the support of Jobbik. She announced that if she wins a seat in the 2022 elections, she will continue her political career in Jobbik. However, ultimately the opposition alliance chose another candidate to support as their joint candidate in the constituency in which she would have been running.
Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI