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Expected Strengthening of Penal Code After Kaleta’s Child Pornography Case

Ábrahám Vass 2020.07.09.

Debates and outcry haven’t diminished about the Kaleta case, and while most people seem to be on the same page about the strengthening of the penal code, the government also announced the possibility of making the names of the offenders, public.

Kaleta, who before his embassy position also served as spokesman for the Ministry of Justice and Foreign Affairs, was brought to Hungary in complete secrecy last spring, after more than 19,000 under-18 pornography photos had been found on his electronic devices during a huge international operation. Last Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to the child pornography charges at his preliminary hearing. He was then handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of HUF 540,000 (EUR 1,527).

Legal debate

Meanwhile, the case has resulted in a legal debate as well, as many, including politicians across the political spectrum, are unsatisfied with the “mild” sentence. While the court argued that the prosecution’s demand basically “narrowed its means of action,” the prosecution argued that the court could have gone for a stricter sentence.

Anyhow, according to the court, the sentence was made in accordance with the judicial practice revealing that in the past five years, 117 people were convicted on similar charges. The prosecutor’s office demanded prison term for eight of them (the others mostly received suspended prison sentences), and four actually ended up in prison after the court’s sentence.

Socialists: “Fidesz,” Fidesz: “leftists and Soros”

Opposition Socialist (MSZP) MPs on Wednesday demanded that punishments for crimes involving child pornography should be made more stringent, in the wake of the “unbelievably lenient” ruling. “Ruling Fidesz’s politicians are quiet and it seems the ruling has not shaken them to make any proposals,” MP Attila Mesterházy said.

In response, Fidesz also issued a statement. According to the ruling party, “it is so hypocritical what the left side is doing. They, together with the Soros network, have in fact wanted the liberalization and easing of Hungarian penal policy- in recent years they have always sided with the criminals, and haven’t backed crackdowns on sexual offenses against children.”

Green-liberal Párbeszéd published a photo in which the Chief Prosecutor, the Foreign Minister, the Justice Minister, and the Prime Minister are all depicted as the accomplices of Kaleta, as in the opposition party’s view they sought to cover up the story and helped “their pal” to escape tougher Peruvian law enforcement.

Independent MP Bernadett Szél criticized the Hungarian government and authorities (mostly the secret services). The former for keeping it secret (it was liberal Index who broke the story one year after Kaleta’s repatriation, in addition, it classified certain documents for 10 years), and the latter for failing to detect Kaleta’s online activities even though he stored the photos on his office PC (the U.S. authorities eventually caught him).

Fidesz group leader: ‘This is not over yet’

In the wake of the news that Kaleta decided to appeal the verdict, ruling Fidesz’s parliamentary group leader Máté Kocsis in a post, supported strengthening the law and condemned the former ambassador. “What Gábor Kaleta did is disgusting, and the court’s judgment is outrageous and unacceptable,” he wrote on Facebook. “Instead of appealing for relief, Kaleta should face his abominable act and all its consequences, as the case is not over yet. All child protection legislation will be reviewed and tightened so that pedophiles receive the most severe punishment so that they can’t hope for a mild court decision, and so that publicly available registers can be kept on them in the future.”

That greater punishment would be added to the law, the PMO chief also recently confirmed. At his regular weekly press briefing, Gergely Gulyás said that the government is ready to support an amendment to the penal code if stricter punishments are needed “to ensure the healthy physical and moral development of children.” In his view, the case is “disgusting and unacceptable,” and “calls for the strictest punishment.”

Others rather tend to criticize the government for the weak level of operation of the child protection system. A writer from moderate, liberal-leaning opinion site Diétás Magyar Múzsa criticized Kocsis for his “outburst”, while the government had been incumbent for ten years now and didn’t do anything to improve the system, yet spent billions on billboard campaigns, for example.

Large-scale child pornography case

Meanwhile, the case in which Kaleta was caught is becoming one of the biggest child pornography cases in history. The South Korean man behind the dark website has gotten a milder term, which he already served in his home country. However, the U.S. wants his extradition, so his case is probably not over yet either.

Moreover, in the U.S. and UK, those convicted are not as lucky as Kaleta. As a matter of fact, many received strict prison terms in addition to the publication of their name and whereabouts, and the so-called “supervised releases” for often as long as 20 years. As of now, amid the international investigation, more than 300 people have been arrested from 30 countries.

featured image via Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI