BUDAPEST (JTA) — Hungary’s Parliament has passed a bill making Holocaust denial a criminal offense.
The legislation, which would mandate prison terms of up to three years for those found guilty of publicly "denying, questioning or making light of the Holocaust," was approved Monday night in the presence of Jewish community leaders.
The law would bring Hungary in line with many other countries occupied by the Nazis during World War II.
President Laszlo Solyom must sign the measure into law or return the draft to Parliament for further consideration. Solyom has warned that he would approach any attempt at restricting the right of free speech with great caution. He upset the Jewish community when he declined to sign a similar bill in 2007.
The current proposal, which involves the changing of three lines in the criminal code, passed 197-1, with 142 abstentions by lawmakers from the center-right Fidesz Party and its allies after a Fidesz proposal to include the denial of Nazi and communist crimes in the bill was rejected. Polls indicate that Fidesz is heavily favored in the upcoming elections.
Hate speech and incitement to violence against minorities already are crimes in Hungary. Courts have thwarted other attempts to ban Holocaust denial as violating free speech.
The proceedings were observed from the visitors’ gallery by Peter Feldmajer, president of the Coalition of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities, and several Jewish-Hungarian Holocaust survivors including Gusztav Zoltai, the coalition’s managing director.