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”I made a mistake,” Hungarian President says as she resigns

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''I made a mistake,'' Hungarian President says as she resigns
Hannes P Albert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Hungarian President Katalin Novak has announced her resignation from office amidst mounting public outcry over her controversial decision to pardon a man implicated in a child sexual abuse case.

The announcement came during a nationally televised address on Saturday, where Novak admitted to making a mistake and acknowledged the public’s doubts regarding the country’s zero-tolerance policy towards paedophilia.

“I decided to grant a pardon last April, believing that the convict did not exploit the vulnerability of the children whom he had overseen,” Novak stated during her speech.

“I made a mistake, as the pardon and the lack of reasoning were conducive to triggering doubts about the zero tolerance that applies to paedophilia.”

The decision to pardon the individual, who was involved in a child sexual abuse case, sparked outrage among thousands of protesters who took to the streets of Budapest on Friday, demanding Novak’s resignation.

The case involved the deputy director of a children’s home who had assisted the former director in concealing his crimes. The former director was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing underage boys between 2004 and 2016, while the deputy director received a three-year sentence.

Novak resigned after intense pressure from opposition parties and civil society groups. She has been a close ally of Hungary’s hardline nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and previously served as the family minister before assuming the role of Hungarian president in 2022, becoming the first woman to hold the largely ceremonial position.

During her televised address, Novak apologised to the victims and their families, acknowledging her mistake and expressing regret for any offence caused. “I apologise to those whom I may have offended and to all the victims who might have felt that I did not stand up for them,” she stated, emphasising her consistent advocacy for protecting children and families.

Novak’s resignation marks the end of her presidency, less than two years after assuming office.

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