Serbian authorities press charges against a sign

The case of István Szávay's opening a representative office in Vojvodina continues. As we reported earlier, Jobbik's vice president was pressed charges against in terms of infraction proceedings because Jobbik's logo and full name was indicated in his Zenta (Senta) office. In fact, it's the office itself that is a thorn in the side of the Serbian state, and now they try to get it closed down on the grounds that the party is not registered in Serbia and therefore must not conduct political activities there.

The second session of the proceedings held in Magyarkanizsa (Kanjiža) on Friday was chaired by a Hungarian speaking judge already (you can read our report of the first session  here), they communicated with each other in Hungarian too, but the official minutes were still taken in Serbian.

The main issue for the court to decide is whether or not Jobbik and István Szávay conduct political activities in Serbia. Jobbik's politician acknowledged that the party's name and logo was indeed indicated along with the opening hours as well as a sign "István Szávay's Representative Office", but there was no reference to Hungary whatsoever.

He pointed out that, in accordance with the Act on the National Assembly, MPs elected from national party lists have the right to rent an office in a settlement of their choice and "as a politician assigned to deal with the affairs of Hungarian communities living beyond our borders, I am not only entitled but also obliged to represent our Hungarian brothers and sisters living outside our current national borders."

In the view of Jobbik's vice president, he is especially obligated to do so in this term since Hungarians living outside the country were allowed to vote for MPs in the Hungarian National Assembly at the latest elections. He emphasized that he also had an office in another territory that had been torn away from Hungary, and that facility is rented for him by the Office of the National Assembly.

He argues that he has two legal bases for that: firstly, the relevant law does not forbid him to operate an office in another country and secondly, he shares the moral responsibility that the National Assembly has for the Hungarian communities living abroad. "As an MP I feel responsible for the Hungarians living in the territories torn away from us and for taking care of the Hungarian minorities living in the neighbouring countries. That is the reason why I opened representative offices in the towns mentioned before," he said.

Contesting the statement that the relevant Serbian law was infringed, István Szávay declared that his office was not that of a political party. Instead, it is his representative office with the function to facilitate keeping contact with voters. The reason why his party's logo is indicated in the office is because MPs cannot be separated from their parties. It is not possible in his view. He also pointed out that Jobbik did not conduct political party activities in the territory of Serbia, and they do not wish to run a candidate. "The primary indication of a party's activity is that they want a share of political power and run candidates but this is not at all the case here," he added. "Based on the freedom of speech and opinion, we have the natural right to express our political views and present our arguments abroad so that we could inform the public about the political programme we wish to implement in Hungary." he said.

Can Serbian citizens become a member of Jobbik?

Szávay pointed out that the charter of Jobbik Movement for a Better Hungary allowed non-Hungarian citizens to join the party so, for example, Serbian citizens with a Serbian residence can also be members. He emphasized that Serbian law did not forbid Serbian citizens to become members of political parties registered in another country. "We did provide for the citizens of other countries to join Jobbik but we have had only informal meetings with such persons so far.

I have been contacted by Serbian citizens, including non-Hungarian individuals, personally in my office hours, via phone, mail or Facebook as well. As a Hungarian MP, my primary job is to represent the members of the Hungarian community living outside our borders but of course we are also glad to help people with other ethnicity if they contact us," he added. As an example, he presented a witness: a dual citizen who had contacted him in his office hours asking for legal and professional assistance to work in Hungary.

Szávay pointed out that the charges did not accuse him of conducting political activities but of indicating the party's name and logo in the office. However, a logo or a name can even be indicated in a newspaper article, too. "Practically speaking, they are pressing charges against a sign, I am not even the real defendant in this case," he said. "The whole procedure is plain nonsense," he added.

He confirmed that Jobbik's activity in Vojvodina "is not against anybody and does not harm the interests of neither Serbia as a country nor the Serbian nation," and the politician specifically aims not to infringe any law in Serbia.

No verdict has been passed so far but the politician expressed his hope that he would be acquitted.


Alfahí -