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Protest in Hungary as former insider shares 'proof' of graft

The demonstration was called by former government insider Peter Magyar (centre) after he published the audio clip earlier in the day (Ferenc ISZA)
The demonstration was called by former government insider Peter Magyar (centre) after he published the audio clip earlier in the day (Ferenc ISZA)

Thousands rallied in central Budapest on Tuesday demanding the resignation of nationalist premier Viktor Orban after a a major critic released a recording allegedly implicating a top minister in a high-profile corruption case.

The demonstration was called by former government insider Peter Magyar after he published the audio clip earlier in the day.

"We will not allow the biggest legal and political scandal of the last thirty years to be covered up," he told the protestors, calling for the resignation of chief prosecutor Peter Polt, whose independence he questioned.

A few thousand gathered in front of the chief prosecutor's office, but the crowd swelled as they later marched to a square near parliament.

Magyar, former justice minister Judit Varga's ex-husband, has been shaking up Hungarian politics since he shot into prominence in the wake of a child abuse pardon scandal.

Varga was forced to stand down from public life over the scandal and Magyar has since emerged as a major Orban critic.

He posted a two-minute audio clip on social media in the morning just as he went to give testimony to prosecutors probing corruption.

In the recording, two people are heard talking about the investigation into a graft case, involving Varga's former deputy.

Magyar claims it is a January 2023 conversation between him and Varga, who was his wife at the time.

He says it contains proof that Antal Rogan, the minister of the prime minister's cabinet office, and his staff manipulated investigative records.

"Sure, they struck themselves out," the woman purported to be Varga can be heard saying in the recording, an apparent reference to Rogan and his staff.

It was not immediately possible for AFP to authenticate the recording.

Varga responded to the released recording by accusing Magyar of domestic violence and provoking her into saying things.

"He read rumours in the press and, since he had been terrorising me for days, I said what he wanted to hear so that I could get out as soon as possible," she wrote on her official Facebook page, later alleging Magyar used the recording to blackmail her.

The government did not respond to the contents of the recording.

"A domestic dispute with a bullied wife has nothing to do with public life," Orban's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas stressed in a video message.

Magyar denies Varga's accusations and insists he only made the recording after his ex-wife informed him that Orban's inner circle was a "mafia government that is impossible to get out of".

He also claims to have more recordings with government officials stashed away.

ros/bc