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Hungary Moves to Rehabilitate Cardinal Mindszenty

September 22, 1989

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ A government spokesman said Friday that Hungary’s Supreme Court will review the trial of the late Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, who was sentenced to life in prison on trumped-up charges of treason.

The government action in presenting the case for review is considered to amount to Mindszenty’s de-facto posthumous rehabilitation.

Spokesman Zsolt Bajnok said the government also decided to rehabilitate nearly 100,000 Hungarians deported or interned in the early 1950s under the Stalinist rule of then-leader Matyas Rakosi.

The decisions are part of the leadership’s review of Hungary’s past that has led to rehabilitating Imre Nagy, leader of the 1956 anti-Stalinist uprising who was executed in 1958, and recognition of his attempted reforms. Many of them are embraced by the current leadership in its own reform drive.

Bajnok told reporters the chief prosecutor concluded that the trial against Mindszenty was solely political and lacked all factual basis.

Seven other cases are also to be presented for review.

Mindszenty was arrested in 1948 as an enemy of communism. After a humiliating trial, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1949 on spurious charges of high treason.

Hungarian revolutionaries freed him from prison in 1956 in the tumultuous days of the uprising. After the revolt was crushed by the Soviets, Mindszenty found shelter in the U.S. mission in Budapest until 1971 when he left the asylum under an agreement worked out between the Vatican and the Hungarian government.

Mindszenty stayed briefly in Rome, then settled in Vienna, where he died on May 6, 1975, at age 83.

The government decided last February to review all political trials conducted from 1945 to 1962.

Bajnok said about 55,000 Hungarians were interned and 43,000 deported from 1949 to 1953. He said about 17,000 of these people are still alive.

He said they would receive a token increase on their pensions of $8 a month.

Referring to Hungary’s struggle to rejuvenate its stagnating economy and pay back its $17 billion foreign debt, Bajnok said the government does ″not have the funds to pay genuine compensation.″

He said the government would also pay a pension supplement to the 22,000 people sentenced after the 1956 uprising.

Survivors of reprisals complained the government decision was unacceptable.

Tibor Zimanyi, head of a group of internment camp veterans, told The Associated Press the token pensions were a ″humiliation of those who had been persecuted unjustly.″

Gabor Roszik, the first opposition member to be elected to Parliament, proposed that Parliament declare Oct. 23, the day the 1956 revolt broke out, a national holiday, the official MTI news agency said. House Speaker Matyas Szueros has proposed it be a day of national remembrance.

The Hungarian daily Esti Hirlap meanwhile reported on Friday that three Czechoslovak border guards chased into Hungary in pursuit of 13 East Germans seeking to emigrate to the West and assaulted one of them.

It said the incident took place last Saturday at the Rajka border crossing.

It said East Germans in three cars drove straight through the Czechoslovak border checkpoint, then jumped from the cars and ran onto Hungarian territory.

The guards ran after them and ″physically assaulted″ one of them before returning to their post, the daily quoted Col. Tibor Vidos, a chief border guard official, as saying.

Vidos protested, the Czechoslovak side admitted the border violation, apologized and ″promised that measures have been taken to avoid similar incidents in the future,″ Esti Hirlap quoted him as saying.

Hungarian radio quoted another official as saying all 13 traveled on to West Germany.

About 18,000 East Germans have crossed to the West from Hungary since Budapest leaders opened the country’s borders for them on Sept. 11.

Many East Germans said they crossed to Hungary illegally from Czechoslovakia, which lies between East Germany and Hungary, after being turned back by Czechoslovak border officials.

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