Armed inspectors from Hungary’s tax authority NAV occupied buildings of the charity association run by Gábor Iványi in Budapest’s Józsefváros neighborhood on Monday morning in a tense encounter that lasted for most of the day.
Around 4:00pm, a stalemate broke out: while sympathizers of the Oltalom (Protection) Charity Association pushed Gábor Iványi up the stairs, NAV employees held down the front line with their backs so that no one could go up them.
In the evening, the opposition parties quickly organized a rally in solidarity with the Methodist pastor on Budapest’s Dankó Street, where representatives of the united opposition as well as Iványi himself spoke as NAV’s armed agents confiscated and removed documents and computers from the premises.
Telex received word later in the evening that one person at the event who had pushed a NAV agent to the ground had been arrested on-site.
Speaking at the impromptu event, András Jámbor, the united opposition’s joint candidate in the district, said that the state owes about 12 billion Ft. (US $38.2 million) in subsides to Iványi’s organizations, which provide public services. And yet the authorities send their enforcers to pick on those who just want to help the community, he said.
András Pikó, mayor of District VIII, said that Gábor Iványi was a model for others, and he called attention to the fact that Iványi and his church provide assistance to people, children, and elderly who have the least means.
Pikó asked everyone not just to stand up for Gábor Iványi, but for all of those who embody and represent the spirit of the pastor, and for Hungarian society to stand up for the weak and fallen.
As the district mayor was speaking, new evidence was removed from the building where Iványi runs his organization. Boxes and sacks holding confiscated computers and documents were taken out by tax authorities to loud boos from the crowd.
After Pikó, Katalin Lukácsi from Everybody’s Hungary Movement, Róbert Dudás and Anita Potocskáné Kőrösi from Jobbik, Gergely Arató from DK, Erzsébet Schmuck from LMP, and MSZP’s Zita Gurmai all spoke in solidarity with Gábor Iványi, and condemned the events taking place in front of them.
Momentum President Anna Donáth pointed out that seized evidence was being taken from the scene right as she was speaking. Supporters gathered there voiced their displeasure and called out, “We are with you, Gábor!” Donáth asked everyone to show their love and compassion for Gábor Iványi and all that his organizations do.
Gábor Iványi: we don’t know why this is happening
After these speeches, Gábor Iványi himself took the stage and opened his speech with the following:
Thank you so much for being here with me, with us, and you should know that if you find yourself in a similar situation, I will be there for you too!
Iványi reported on the events that had taken place that day, and asked the community not to harm NAV staff because they were not responsible for what was happening.
The Methodist pastor said that his brother had been taken hostage by the authorities, and for a long time it was not clear exactly what was happening or who was being prosecuted, and even the topic of suspected drug abuse had come up.
Gábor Iványi claimed that essentially all evidence pertaining to the operation of the educational and social institutions run by the Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood (MET) and the Oltalom Charity Association had been seized. The pastor spent a long time reading the official documents on stage for a long time, then stated:
They list at length what was taken away, but I still don’t know why.
Iványi recalled that in recent days, people had been “encouraged” to report several of his co-workers and those around them. He said that what had happened was no coincidence, and that the authorities drag everyone down, especially during the election campaign, solely to secure and maintain their power.
Gábor Iványi also said it was the duty of Christians to say now, as before, that they want to live in a world where people are not led around, and where authorities do not abuse their power.
The Methodist pastor also expressed his hope that the state would immediately pay the 12 billion Ft. due to MET, as several local and international courts have ruled.
“The conscience of the Hungarian nation”
Speaking next at the event, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony said that Gábor Iványi irritates the authorities because he reminds Viktor Orbán of his former self, and all that he has betrayed and trampled on. According to the mayor, we should not be bitter about what happened, but draw strength from it, because Gábor Iványi has become the conscience of the Hungarian nation.
As long as there are Gábor Iványi-types in Hungary, Hungarians are not a lost people, the mayor continued. This nation is not embodied by Viktor Orbán, but by Gábor Iványi, mercy, and solidarity, adding:
Let’s all be a little Gábor Iványi on April 3.
-urged the Mayor, referring to the date of the Hungarian parliamentary elections.
Gábor Iványi then asked the crowd to sing the Hungarian National Anthem, and asked the crowd not to collect money for him, since he will refuse to pay his fine:
If they put me in jail, I will take my pocket dominoes and sit in jail.
-said pastor and charity worker Gábor Iványi.
Tax raid was “obviously a political message”
Earlier in the day, Gábor Iványi said that the tax raid was “obviously a political message,” as the possibilitiy of him being nominated as the opposition’s candidate for head of state had come up several times.
Iványi’s religious organization, MET, was registered more than forty years ago, but its status as a church was revoked by the current government in 2012 and remains off the official list of churches in Hungary.
In the past ten years, MET has accumulated high debts to utility companies, and in February last year, NAV imposed fines totaling more than 246 million Ft. ($784,000) on certain institutions run by the organization.
For years, Iványi has consistently said that his organizations cannot pay their debts because the Hungarian state refuses to pay them the subsidies they are rightfully due.
[Telex][Cover photo: Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony, Gábor Iványi, and Momentum President Anna Donáth speak on Feb. 21, 2022 (Gergely Karácsony / Facebook)]