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Hungary's president resigns over child sexual abuse scandal

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Hungary's president resigns over child sexual abuse scandal

Outrage was sparked by revelations Hungary’s president had pardoned a man convicted in a child sexual abuse cause.

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Hungary’s president has resigned amid outrage over her pardoning of a man convicted in a child sexual abuse case.

President Katalin Novak faced days of growing pressure to resign because of her controversial decision to pardon a man who was convicted of covering up crimes committed by a sexual predator at a children’s home.

The 46-year-old announced in a televised message on Saturday that she would step down from the presidency, an office she has held since 2022. 

“I issued a pardon that caused bewilderment and unrest for many people,” Novák said on Saturday. “I made a mistake.”

Novak – the first female president in Hungary’s history – had unleashed a political scandal unprecedented for the country’s long-serving nationalist government, Fidesz. 

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Her resignation is a rare episode of turmoil for the right-wing party, which under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been accused of dismantling democratic institutions and rigging the media in its favour. 

Novak, a key ally of Orbán, has been an outspoken advocate of traditional family values and the protection of children. 

“We know for sure that no serious decision is made around the Fidesz House without Viktor Orbán’s knowledge and consent,” wrote Hungarian politician Donáth Anna on Facebook.

“Viktor Orbán must stand up and explain what happened. Judit Varga signed the pardon on behalf of the prime minister and his government. This is Orbán’s system, so his responsibility cannot be denied.”

Scandal could bring down other politicians

Hungary’s main opposition parties have called for a presidential election.

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“In order to prevent this from happening again…. we are taking the initiative so that the people, not Viktor Orbán and the Parliament, decide on the person of the new president of the republic, as it works perfectly in most European countries,” wrote Klára Dobrev of the left-wing Democratic Coalition on Facebook. 

There were protests in the Hungarian capital Budapest on Friday night, demanding Novak’s resignation. 

The man who Novak pardoned was sentenced to more than three years in prison in 2018 for pressuring victims to retract their claims of sexual abuse in a state-run children’s home by its director, who was sentenced to eight years for abusing at least 10 children between 2004 and 2016. 

It was well known that Novak had pardoned some two dozen people ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Hungary in April 2023. 

However, it was only recently disclosed that one of those pardoned was the deputy director of the children’s home who covered for his boss while he preyed on its residents. 

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Novak was the youngest person to ever hold the office of president in Hungary. 

Also implicated in the pardon was Judit Varga, another key Fidesz figure, who endorsed the pardon as Hungary’s then Justice Minister.  

Varga was expected to lead the list of European Parliament candidates from Fidesz when elections are held this summer. But in a Facebook post on Saturday, she said she would take political responsibility for endorsing the pardon and “retire from public life”. 

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Varge also resigned from her seat as a member of parliament.

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US conducts four 'self-defense strikes' against Houthi weapons preparing to launch: CENTCOM

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US conducts four 'self-defense strikes' against Houthi weapons preparing to launch: CENTCOM

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The U.S. military conducted “self-defense strikes” against Houthi missiles and a launcher prepared to fire from Yemen toward the Red Sea on Wednesday, U.S. Central Command announced.

Between 12 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. local time on Wednesday, four self-defense strikes were launched in response to seven mobile Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles and one mobile anti-ship ballistic missile launcher aimed at the Red Sea, the agency said.

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Also, in an act of self-defense, CENTCOM said its forces shot down a one-way attack unmanned aircraft system.

US CARRIES OUT ‘SELF-DEFENSE’ STRIKE AGAINST HOUTHI ANTI-SHIP MISSILE: CENTCOM

U.S. Central Command announced more “self-defense strikes” against Houthi terrorists in Yemen after American forces located missiles and a launcher prepared to fire toward the Red Sea. (Mass Communications Spc. 2nd Class Moises Sandoval/U.S. Navy via AP)

The missiles, launchers and the unmanned aircraft system were all determined to have originated from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

CENTCOM said they “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the U.S. Navy ships in the region” and were destroyed.

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HOUTHIS DEMAND US, UK AID WORKERS LEAVE YEMEN WITHIN 30 DAYS FOLLOWING 2ND COALITION STRIKE

“These actions will protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for U.S. Navy and merchant vessels,” CENTCOM concluded.

CENTCOM and the State Department have been adamant in recent days about condemning Houthi aggression in the Red Sea toward military and civilian ships.

Model of Houthi missile

A model of a Houthi missile is carried during a protest in Sanaa, Yemen, against the war in Gaza and U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Houthis on Feb. 16. (Mohammed Mohammed/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Prior to Wednesday’s self-defense strikes, U.S. and coalition forces have shot down 11 one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles, one anti-ship cruise missile, and one surface-to-air missile launcher located in Houthi-controlled Yemen since Feb. 19, according to CENTCOM announcements.

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Fox News’ Liz Friden contributed to this report.

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Three people killed in shooting near Jerusalem

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Three people killed in shooting near Jerusalem

Israeli police say officers shoot two of the gunmen, and a third tries to escape but is found and arrested

At least three people have been killed and eight wounded when Palestinian gunmen opened fire at motorists near an Israeli checkpoint near occupied East Jerusalem.

The head of Israel’s ambulance service, Eli Bean, told the public broadcaster Kan that two women were seriously wounded on Thursday.

Israeli police said the attackers took advantage of slow morning traffic on the central highway east of Jerusalem near the Maale Adumim settlement in the occupied West Bank and opened fire with automatic weapons at cars waiting near a checkpoint.

A spokesperson said the gunmen were Palestinians but gave no further details.

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Israeli police said two gunmen were killed and a third was arrested.

In response to the attack, far-right Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir said freedom of movement for Palestinians should be restricted.

“Our right to life overrides the Palestinians’ freedom of movement,” the official said, according to Israeli media reports.

“I will fight for barriers around the villages that will limit the freedom of movement of the residents of the Palestinian Authority.”

Tensions in the occupied West Bank have been exacerbated since Israel’s war on Gaza began on October 7 following a Hamas attack that killed 1,139 people, according to Israeli figures.

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Israel’s retaliation on Gaza for the attack has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians and wounded close to 70,000 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and has reduced much of the enclave to rubble.

Reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Willem Marx said the attack is an “indication of the frustration that many people inside the occupied West Bank and those facing challenges around access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque are feeling at this very, very fraught time”.

“This is something that reflects a period in history, decades ago, when these kinds of attacks were incredibly frequent in and around Jerusalem,” Marx said, adding that there have been “several similar incidents” recently in the West Bank and around illegal settlements.

The shooting “so close to Jerusalem at a busy time in the morning next to a major checkpoint where there’d be a huge security presence is an indication of that frustration”, Marx reported.

Last week, two people were killed by gunmen who police suspect to be Palestinians at a bus stop in southern Israel.

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Video: U.S. Defends Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories

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Video: U.S. Defends Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories

new video loaded: U.S. Defends Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories

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U.S. Defends Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories

The United States urged the International Court of Justice not to call for immediate withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories, and to consider the country’s security needs.

Any movement towards Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza requires consideration of Israel’s very real security needs. We were all reminded of those security needs on Oct. 7, and they persist. Regrettably, those needs have been ignored by many of the participants in asserting how the court should consider the questions before it. It is more urgent than ever to proceed to a Palestinian state, one that also ensures the security of Israel and makes the necessary commitments to do so. In light of these considerations, the court should not find that Israel is legally obligated to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from occupied territory. Others have asked you to broadly construe the questions and the law. They have asked you to try to resolve the whole of the dispute between the parties through an advisory opinion addressed to questions, focusing on the acts of only one party. The United States disagrees with that, that this approach would be consistent with the court’s role within the United Nations or the established U.N. framework for achieving peace through negotiations.

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