Bela Kovacs has been temporarily stripped off legal immunity after the Hungarian Member of the European Parliament was accused of spying for Russia. Hungary’s prosecutor’s office made a request to do the same in connection with an investigation into the accusation.
According to the European Parliament, the request of the immunity suspension was necessary to go ahead with required procedures in the investigation. Hungarian prosecutors made the request more than a year back. If proven guilty, Kovacs may face up to eight years in jail.
Members in the legal affairs committee voted in favor of lifting the immunity at a closed-door parliament hearing Monday. The Hungarian diplomat was an observer at the Crimean referendum in March 2014.
Kovacs was one of the few MEPs who traveled to Crimea after its annexation by Russia in 2014. Local authorities invited the MEPs to observe an "independence referendum." The vote was considered illegitimate by the E.U., the United States and the United Nations.
According to Russian News Agency TASS, Moscow believes "Crimea’s reunification with Russia" is "in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008."
Kovacs belongs to the far right Jobbik party in Hungary. The 55-year-old was re-elected in May as a member of the European Parliament. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Hungarian parliamentary committee found "solid" evidence against Kovacs to accuse of his espionage in favor of Russia.
Hungarian officials say Kovacs has been tracked by security services for four years. They claim that Kovacs traveled to Moscow every month and secretly met with Russian diplomats.