Demonstrators urge ouster of Hungarian president in paedophile case

People march on the Chain Bridge during a protest to demand the resignation of Hungarian President Katalin Novak at Sandor Palace. Marton Monus/dpa
People march on the Chain Bridge during a protest to demand the resignation of Hungarian President Katalin Novak at Sandor Palace. Marton Monus/dpa

Thousands of demonstrators turned out in Budapest on Friday evening to demand the ouster of Hungarian President Katalin Novák over how she handled a pardon in connection with a case involving the abuse of children.

It recently became known that Novak pardoned a man who had been legally convicted of aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of children and young people.

Novák did not give a reason for the controversial pardon. The man she pardoned was the deputy head of a children's home in Bicske near Budapest.

According to the court ruling, he forced children to recant their testimonies as victims of abuse against the director of the home in order to exonerate his boss.

The home director was sentenced to eight years in prison. His pardoned deputy received a prison sentence of three years and four months. The pardon had already taken place in May 2023, on the occasion of Pope Francis' visit to Budapest.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán submitted a proposal to parliament on Thursday evening to change the Hungarian constitution so that in future, criminals whose crimes victimize children should generally not be pardoned.

This was the first time Orbán has ever distanced himself from Novák, the former vice president of his ruling populist national-conservative Fidesz party.

She promised to support the proposed constitutional amendment.

At the close of Friday's demonstration, called by the Momentum opposition party as well as student associations, the angry crowd threw numerous stuffed animals in front of the door of the presidential palace in Budapest's Castle District as a symbol of children in danger.

Protesters take part in a protest against Hungarian President Katalin Novak decision to pardon a man in a case of child sexual abuse. Marton Monus/dpa
Protesters take part in a protest against Hungarian President Katalin Novak decision to pardon a man in a case of child sexual abuse. Marton Monus/dpa
Protesters lay down stuffed animals during a protest against Hungarian President Katalin Novak decision to pardon a man in a case of child sexual abuse. Marton Monus/dpa
Protesters lay down stuffed animals during a protest against Hungarian President Katalin Novak decision to pardon a man in a case of child sexual abuse. Marton Monus/dpa
Protesters lay down stuffed animals during a protest against Hungarian President Katalin Novak decision to pardon a man in a case of child sexual abuse. Marton Monus/dpa
Protesters lay down stuffed animals during a protest against Hungarian President Katalin Novak decision to pardon a man in a case of child sexual abuse. Marton Monus/dpa