Hungarian President Katalin Novák has pardoned several convicted far-right terrorists on the occasion of Pope Francis’ trip to Budapest.
“The week of the Pope’s visit offers a special opportunity for the head of state to make use of her right of amnesty,” the presidential chancellery announced in Budapest on Thursday evening.
The amnesty affected the right-wing terrorist György Budahazy, whom an appeals court in Budapest sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in March this year, and nine other members of his far-right Hunnia group. Between 2007 and 2009, the gang carried out numerous arson and explosive attacks targeting the houses of left-wing and liberal politicians, planned an assassination attempt, and beat up and seriously injured a television producer.
The trials dragged on for more than ten years. Budahazy is considered an iconic figure of the far right, but also enjoys sympathy among supporters of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, of which Novák is also a member. After the amnesty decree, he was able to leave the Vac prison north of Budapest early on Friday.
Budahazy had a horse brought to him and rode away shouting “Freedom!” Hungarian media reported. In addition, Budahazy told the tabloid Blikk that he would attend Pope Francis’ mass in Budapest on Sunday to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for him.
The head of the Catholic Church began a three-day visit to the Hungarian capital on Friday. The highlight will be a mass celebrated by Francis on Sunday morning in the square in front of the parliament.