Hungarian communist gets jail term over 1956 revolt

Hungarian communist gets jail term over 1956 revolt

Budapest (AFP) - A senior figure in Hungary's former communist regime was sentenced Tuesday to five years and six months in jail for war crimes over the deadly crackdown of the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising.

A judge at the Budapest Court ruled that Bela Biszku, 92, was "actively involved" in decisions to order security forces to open fire on crowds in two incidents in December 1956 during which some 50 people died.

In total during the uprising, more than 2,000 civilians were killed after Soviet tanks rolled into the country. Some 300 were executed, more than 20,000 were jailed and 200,000 fled the country.

Biszku, who later became interior minister, was arrested in September 2012 and has been under house arrest since.

He was the first of Hungary's 1956 communist leaders to face criminal investigation, although Tuesday's verdict has been appealed by Biszku's lawyers who argued that any offences that long ago should be time-barred.

"A member of the narrowest circle of party leadership," Biszku committed "war crimes -- as an abettor -- and homicide against more than one person," prosecutors, who asked the judge to hand out a life sentence, said in court during the two-month-long trial.

Biszku was also found guilty of other charges including "complicity in criminal acts" for covering up reprisals after the revolt.

Walking with a stick but still sprightly, Biszku sat through Tuesday's five-hour-long hearing in silence and refused to make a final statement.

In 2011, the conservative government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban modified a law to enable people suspected of involvement in the 1956 reprisals to be tried.