The Pawns Are Falling

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Thousands of people protested near the Hungarian parliament in the capital Budapest Tuesday after a former government insider accused senior officials of meddling in a corruption case, adding to the recent troubles of powerful Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Reuters reported.

Marching from the chief prosecutor’s office toward parliament, protesters demanded that both the prosecutor and Orbán step down. Péter Magyar, a lawyer who is also the ex-husband of former Justice Minister Judit Varga, also attended the demonstration.

Earlier Tuesday, he released a recording online, which he also presented to the prosecutor’s office, that featured Varga saying that aides to Orbán’s cabinet chief, Antal Rogan, attempted to remove documents from a graft case involving other government officials. Magyar said he made the recording in January 2023 at the couple’s home when they were still married.

The recording centers on a case involving Pal Volner, a justice ministry official under Varga’s tenure. He resigned in 2021 and was charged the following year for allegedly accepting kickbacks from the head of the court bailiffs, Gyorgy Schadl. Both men face jail terms.

“(Rogan’s aides) told the prosecutors what should be deleted but they did not entirely follow up on that,” Varga is heard saying on the tape.

In a social media post, she did not deny the authenticity of the recording but accused her former spouse of betraying her trust and having his own political agenda. Magyar plans to launch a new party against Orbán’s right-wing Fidesz party.

Meanwhile, the opposition argued the tape “shows that the justice system is under political influence” and accused Varga of giving her blessing for manipulating the judicial process, Politico reported.

The leak comes amid a tense situation for Orbán, who has faced the largest outcry against his rule since he entered office in 2010.

In February, a case involving the pardoning of a state official who interfered in a child abuse investigation triggered widespread outrage, leading to the resignations of Varga and President Katalin Novak.

Varga, one of Orbán’s protégées, retired from public life, leaving the prime minister without a charismatic lead candidate for June’s European Parliament elections.

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