Hungarian-American organization is lobbying for criminal fugitive

The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF), based in New York, claims they are “the only professional organization in the West” protecting the human rights of ethnic Hungarians who live as minorities in Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine. Currently they are lobbying on behalf of Attila Markó, a prominent ethnic-Hungarian politician in Romania. (Read here about HHRF lobbying efforts.)

Mr. Markó is implicated in real estate fraud and wanted by the Romanian authorities. He has declared that the Romanian anti-corruption agency, led by Ms. Laura Codruta Kovesi, is out to get him and so refuses to cooperate with the authorities.

Last week Interpol placed Mr. Markó on their wanted list, so now he is an international fugitive. The Hungarian newspaper Heti Válasz claims that Markó is hiding in Budapest, and that the Hungarian neo-Nazi party Jobbik is preparing a petition to provide asylum for him. He received a hero’s welcome in Budapest by the Orbán government’s supporters.

Attila Markó is on Interpol's most wanted list.

Attila Markó is on Interpol’s most wanted list.

The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation is run by László Hámos. It doesn’t publish budget or funding information. The Hungarian Government provides “interns” for the Foundation, as part of the Kőrösi Csoma Program.

Mr. Hámos is close to Republican George Pataki, the ex-governor of the State of New York. Rediscover Hungary is an Orbán government-sponsored program, also run by Mr. Hámos, with Mr. Pataki’s daughter, Allison Pataky-Levy, as its “U.S. face.”

Good friends - Mr. Hámos (with glasses) and Gov. Pataki with Mr. Hámos's daughter Julia, who is a promising pianist.

Good friends – Mr. Hámos (with glasses) and Gov. Pataki with Mr. Hámos’s daughter Julia, who is a promising pianist.

The United States supports Romania’s anti-corruption drive. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, recently visited Bucharest and meet with President Klaus Iohannis and Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu. She reiterated the United States’ interest in the continued development of the rule of law, justice, economic openness and transparency in Romania.

At the same time, the U.S. Government has expressed reservations about Hungary’s legal system. Lydia Gall from Human Rights Watch stated that “the legal changes introduced by Hungary’s government are eating away at the rule of law and human rights protection,” and most alarming is that the government doesn’t even respect its own Constitutional Court.

I encourage Mr. Hámos to publish financial information about the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation and clarify his relationship with Hungary’s political actors. He should make it clear that HHRF is not a US lobbyist for Hungary’s Fidesz or Jobbik parties. Also, it would be advisable to explain why is he lobbying in the U.S. for an international fugitive.

György Lázár

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