Prosecutors in Hungary charged a 92-year-old former interior minister on Wednesday with war crimes related to his suppression of civilians during the Hungarian uprising against Soviet rule in 1956.
Prosecutors in Budapest, the capital, said the man, Bela Biszku, was on a committee of the Communist Party that ordered the shooting of civilians in Budapest and Salgotarjan, a town in northern Hungary, in November and December 1956. Historians say many civilians were killed and arrested during the uprising. If convicted, Mr. Biszku could be sentenced to life in prison.
The charges, more than 20 years after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, come as countries across the region are seeking a reckoning with the past. In September, Romanian prosecutors charged Alexandru Visinescu, the commander of a Communist-era prison, with genocide. He was the first Romanian to face that charge since the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was tried and executed in 1989.
Mr. Biszku, who was Hungary's interior minister from 1957 to 1961, was charged under a 2011 law, championed by the center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, that permits the prosecution of crimes committed during Communist times. Mr. Orban rose to prominence in 1989 when, as an opposition leader, he called for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary, embodying the aspirations of the whole region.
The defiant uprising by Hungarians in 1956, though violently repressed, became a pivotal event that stirred the hearts and minds of people across Eastern and Central Europe and undermined Communist regimes across the region.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 16, 2013 2:02 PM