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World

REUTERS
December 7, 2017

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Hungary charges Jobbik MEP with spying on EU for Russia

Hungary charges Jobbik MEP with spying on EU for Russia

BUDAPEST: A Hungarian European Parliament member who belongs to the nationalist opposition Jobbik party has been charged with spying on European Union institutions for Russia, prosecutors said on Wednesday.


The charges against Bela Kovacs, which include using forged private documents, stem from an investigation dating from April 2014, when Hungarian authorities first reported the suspected espionage and filed for his immunity to be lifted.


"This was followed by declaring reasonable suspicion, the essence of which was that the member of parliament had been involved in espionage on behalf of a foreign state for its secret service," the prosecutors said in a statement.


The foreign state in question was Russia, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said. Kovacs himself said the case against him was based on "fantasy" and added he looked forward to the court proceedings, where he expected to exonerate himself.


"I am very happy that we finally made it to this point and I can clear my name in court and put an end to this saga," he told Reuters by phone.


No date has been announced for a trial. The charges against Kovacs follow a probe by Hungarian prosecutors into the financial reporting practices of Jobbik, the strongest opposition party.


The issue of collusion with Russia is especially touchy in Hungary because Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also often been charged with having uncomfortably close ties with Moscow. He struck a giant nuclear power deal with Russia, along with other major business deals, has criticised the EU embargo on Russia and meets annually with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, which is runaway favourite to win a third successive term in power, declined comment on Kovacs’s remarks.

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