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Hungary’s president resigns over pardon of man convicted in child sex abuse case

Katalin Novak has resigned as Hungary’s President (AFP via Getty Images)
Katalin Novak has resigned as Hungary’s President (AFP via Getty Images)

Hungary’s President has resigned after coming under mounting pressure for pardoning a man convicted of helping to cover up sexual abuse in a children's home.

Katalin Novak, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, announced in a televised message that she would step down from the presidency, an office she has held since 2022.

It followed a week of outrage over the revelation that Novak had issued a presidential pardon in April 2023 to a man convicted of hiding a string of child sexual abuses in a state-run children’s home.

“I issued a pardon that caused bewilderment and unrest for many people,” she said on Saturday. “I made a mistake.”

The man had been sentenced in 2018 to more than three years in prison after being found guilty of pressurising victims to retract claims of sexual abuse against the director of the home, who was sentenced to eight years for abusing at least 10 children between 2004 and 2016.

This week, Hungarian opposition parties had demanded Novak's resignation over the case and on Friday a thousand demonstrators rallied at Novak's office calling for her to quit.

On Saturday, former justice minister Judit Varga said she would step down from the Government.

“I resign from public life, I resign my mandate as a lawmaker and also the top position on the European party list,” she said.

The scandal was a rare setback for Mr Orban, whose party Fidesz leads opinion polls ahead of the June elections – but around a third of voters remain undecided.

Under Mr Orban’s leadership, Fidesz has been accused of dismantling democratic institutions and rigging the media in its favour.

Ms Novak previously served as minister for families prior to her appointment to the presidency. She had been outspoken in advocating for traditional family values.