Hungary arrests ex-minister for war crimes

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Budapest - Hungarian police arrested on Monday a former top Communist official for “war crimes” connected to the 1956 uprising against the Soviet Union, the prosecutor's office in Budapest said.

“Bela Biszku was arrested for war crimes related to two shootings that caused the deaths of several people during the events following the 1956 uprising,” chief prosecutor Tibor Ibolya told journalists.

If found guilty, Biszku faces life in prison.

Biszku, who turns 91 on Thursday, was interior minister from 1957 to 1961 and a party hardliner under the Communist regime in Hungary.

According to the prosecution, he is the last living member of the then government who could be held responsible for actions committed during the October 1956 uprising, which was quickly crushed by Soviet tanks.

Last year, the current Hungarian government amended the law to allow the prosecution of people suspected of taking part in the reprisals that followed the uprising.

During that time, some 300 people were executed, over 20 000 jailed and 200 000 fled the country.

In a television interview in 2010, Biszku defended all his actions during that period, adding that prime minister Imre Nagy, one of the key leaders of the uprising who was executed by the Communists in 1958, “had got what he deserved.”

Biszku will not be detained pending trial but will remain under house arrest, the prosecution said. - Sapa-AFP

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