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Former Hungarian ambassador to Peru Gábor Kaleta was sentenced by a Budapest court on Thursday to a one year suspended prison sentence for possession of more than 19,000 pornographic images of minors.
A judge suspended Kaleta's sentence for two-and-a-half years, and ordered him to pay a fine of Ft 540,000 (€1,500). If the former ambassador does not commit a crime within that time period, he will serve no time in prison.
Kaleta's lawyer argued that his client had "lived an exemplary life as a lawyer in which he entered a diplomatic career and served his country. He is a deeply religious person that regularly practices his faith." Kaleta has lost 30 kilos since being implicated in the crimes, and the case has deeply affected his family, the lawyer said.
In the spring of 2019, Hungarian secret services were informed by an American cybercrime unit that it had been monitoring Kaleta's online activities as part of an investigation into an international pedophile ring. The ambassador was then escorted from Peru to Hungary by Hungarian authorities, but the case was kept quiet in Hungary, reportedly at the request of US authorities who feared publicity could jeopardize their ongoing investigation.
However, even after the US investigation was closed, Kaleta's case was kept secret by the Hungarian government and prosecutor's office for more than a year before first being reported on by Index.hu. He was reportedly immediately stripped of his diplomatic rank after being taken into custody, and charged in November of last year.
Kaleta served as the ambassador to Peru from 2017 until his arrest, and was earlier the press officer for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2012.
Index CEO resigns after less than a week on the job
The CEO of news website Index.hu Zsolt Ződi resigned on Tuesday, less than a week after being named to head the company.
Index staff heard the news of Ződi's departure through a press release by László Bodolai, the chairman of the foundation which owns Index. The site's editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull later wrote that the developments were happening "over the heads" of the staff, and that they have "no say or influence in these matters".
Bodolai wrote in the press release that "Index will continue to function uninterrupted without a CEO". But staff at the website continued to express concern that their independence was under threat.
As we reported last week, members of the editorial board including editor-in-chief Dull determined that they were under external pressure that could "spell the end of our editorial staff as we know it". Editorial staff adjusted an online independence barometer for the site to read, "In Danger", and shortly thereafter, Dull was suspended from the company's board of directors while the previous CEO, András Pusztay, resigned.
Ződi gave the reason for his departure in the press release, writing, "After I familiarized myself with the financial situation of the company, I reached the conclusion that carrying out the necessary changes in such a large organization is a task way beyond me." Dull wrote that neither he nor staff at the site "know what these necessary changes are".
According to Bodolai, efforts are being made to "find a lasting solution to the cash-flow problem as quickly as possible", and that any changes that occur will not affect Index's daily operations or independence.
Nationwide screening test shows positive coronavirus cases in only 2.9 of 10,000 Hungarians
Three out of more than 10,000 people tested during a nationwide coronavirus screening test conducted in May tested positive for the coronavirus, Béla Merkely, rector of Semmelweis University and head of a clinical epidemiology working group announced on Wednesday.
The representative screening involved 10,575 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, resulting in a positive rate of 0.029 percent. Seropositive cases, where the test subject has coronavirus antibodies and likely has already recovered from the virus, were found in 70 subjects, or 0.68 percent of the total. According to Merkely, this means that around 56,000 Hungarians may have already contracted the coronavirus.
The active rate of infection (2.9 per 10,000 people) and rate of those with antibodies (68 per 10,000 people) are both low in Hungary, Merkely said.
The tests were conducted on 10,575 people over 14 years of age from 489 towns across the country. Merkely said it will be important to regularly repeat the representative screenings in coming months before a vaccine is available.
At an online conference earlier this week, Merkely pointed out that rises in new cases of the coronavirus in neighboring countries could cause the epidemic to re-emerge in Hungary by November. Merkely gave a more urgent warning in a radio interview on Thursday, when he said that cases brought into Hungary from abroad could result in a new outbreak as early as this summer.
"We can't be too careful," he said. "If we look around, an alarming sight is unfolding."
While Hungary's active cases have been consistently decreasing since their high point on May 4, the reduction has stagnated in recent days. The daily average of new infections went from 3.71 between June 16-22 to 6.14 last week, a significant rise.
Active cases and daily averages are also on the rise in neighboring countries. Ukraine and Romania are yet to see a decrease in active cases, while countries like Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia have begun seeing rises in new infections which had previously been close to zero.
Below is a graph showing active cases in Austria, Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary.
Hungary to allow US film crews to enter country despite EU ban
While the European Union announced it would not permit citizens of the United States to enter the bloc's external borders due to the country's failure to control the coronavirus pandemic, Hungary will make an exception for US film crews.
Variety magazine writes that Hungary, Europe's second most popular destination for Hollywood films, saw a 50 percent rise in film production last year, and that studios are booked until the end of the year.
Index.hu writes that while EU member states are not obligated to enact the EU ban on certain foreign travellers, those countries allowing in citizens from places where the pandemic is still on the rise run the risk of having other EU states ban entry to their own citizens.
Speaking to Variety, the Hungarian government’s film commissioner Csaba Káel said that film production will soon resume at full capacity. Productions such as the science fiction epic Dune and Netflix's Terra Vision, as well as films The Banker's Wife, The Nightingale and the Halo series are set to resume this year.