EU Lawmaker From Hungary Faces Immunity Vote in Russia Spy Case

  • Bela Kovacs case goes to European Parliament on Wednesday
  • Hungarian prosecutors motivated by `reasonable suspicions'

A European Parliament member from Hungary may lose his immunity this week so Hungarian prosecutors can pursue an inquiry into whether he spied for Russia.

The 28-nation European Union assembly is due to vote on Wednesday in Brussels on lifting the immunity of Bela Kovacs, who belongs to Hungary’s radical nationalist Jobbik party. The EU Parliament’s legal-affairs committee recommended on Monday that Kovacs’s immunity be waived.

“The request for the waiver of the immunity of Bela Kovacs is made in order that investigations can be carried out, on the basis of reasonable suspicions, to see whether a charge will lie against him with regard to the offense of espionage against the institutions of the European Union,” the EU Parliament’s legal-affairs committee said in its recommendation. “Waiver of immunity does not entail in any way a judgment as to the member’s guilt or innocence.”

The verdict by the 751-seat Parliament will end more than a year of deliberations over the immunity case, which has coincided with a deterioration in EU-Russia relations because of the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine. The assembly announced in July 2014 that Prosecutor-General of Hungary Peter Polt had requested the lifting of Kovacs’s immunity.

“According to the information provided by the prosecutor general, Mr. Kovacs’s covert contacts with Russian intelligence officers were first detected in 2010 by the Hungarian Constitution Protection Office in the course of its investigation into the activities of certain foreign nationals,” the EU Parliament’s legal-affairs committee said. “The prosecutor has made it clear that the investigation and any subsequent indictment for which the waiver of immunity is sought are limited to events having occurred after Jan. 1, 2014.”

Kovacs has denied being a Russian spy. According to the EU Parliament’s legal-affairs committee, Kovacs says the surveillance against him was illegal, the principle of the presumption of innocence in the case has been violated and the “whole case is unlawful and unreasonable.”