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Canada grants political asylum to Hungarian writer

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TORONTO (JTA) — Akos Kertesz, an award-winning Hungarian Jewish writer, was granted political asylum in Canada.

Kertesz, 80, who fled last year to Canada from Hungary, was given refugee status even though Ottawa in a move that stirred controversy a year ago placed Hungary on a list of “safe countries.” The author said he was the victim of a state-led “hate campaign,” the Canadian Jewish News reported.

He arrived in Montreal claiming his life in Hungary had become intolerable because of his outspokenness abroad about Hungarians’ role in the Holocaust and his denunciation of the country’s right-wing government.

In August 2011, Kertesz, the author of some 20 books and winner of Hungary’s most prestigious literary prize, wrote an open letter in a U.S. Hungarian periodical slamming his countrymen for not owning up to their record during World War II and for supporting the “dictatorial” Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The article caused a firestorm in Hungary. Kertesz said he became the object of a “witch hunt” and feared for his life after being physically assaulted on the street, harassed and threatened. Much of the invective against him was anti-Semitic.

Kertesz said he “was forced [to flee] because of the current Hungarian government,” the CJN reported. “I hope that one day I will be able to return to a democratic, tolerant, humane Hungary.”

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