13020 - The Mikó Case

What’s the 13020?

13020 is the trial case number of a highly disputed Court rule in Romania concerning the property right of the Hungarian community, specifically the Reformed Church, over a more than a century old high school building in Sepsiszentgörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe,Romania).

Recently by means of a politically motivated decision the Romanian judiciary renationalized the Székely Mikó Kollégium (Székely Mikó High School), which was rightfully returned to the Reformed Church in 2002. At the same time two of the three members of the Restitution Committee, Attila Markó and Tamás Marosán, were sentenced to three years of prison. The third member of the Committee, Silviu Clim, was sentenced to three years of suspended imprisonment.

An appeal was filed. The first hearing will be on the 5th October, 2012 at the Appeal Court Ploiesti. The decision will be legally binding, thus the sentence will be final and irrevocable.

A short background of the case trial

At the time of the restitution - in spite of the objection of the municipality and the Reformed Church - two individuals, former subtenants, purchased apartments belonging to the campus of the High School. They intended civil law suit against the Reformed Church, attempting to prevent the restitution of the High School. The civil action was won by the defendant, the Reformed Church. On 15 March 2006 the Court finally decided that the building belongs to the Reformed Church

In 2007, after the conclusion of the civil action, the families filed a criminal suit against 7 people. They brought a suit against the employees of the Land Registry Office that registered the building and issued the land certificate.

They accused them of forgery. They also brought a suit against one of the church representatives, accusing him of forgery as well, and three members of the Restitution Committee. By the time the investigation started, the crimes of four individuals had been barred by the statute of limitations. Thus, in the end criminal action was instituted only against the members of the Committee.

After the criminal complaint the Anti Corruption Department of the Office of the General Prosecutor took over the investigation and based on the complainers faked evidences they accused all the three members of the committee of abuse of authority. At the end of 2007, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) separately summoned the three members of the Committee to appear in Brasov for questioning. At the same time, it questioned the church representatives and many other people involved. In 2008, the DNA started to compile the case file no. 13020, based on the minutes of these interrogations. The prosecution also requested the transfer of the case from the Tribunal of Sepsiszentgyörgy to the Tribunal of Buzau stating that “the local court can’t be objective because of the hostile atmosphere”.

During the trial the defendants presented several evidences. They presented all the documents confirming the committee’s legal status, including the restitution law and the final and irrevocable decision of the Appeal Court of Brasov and that of the Constitutional Courts. In addition all the documents proving the property’s ownership, land registry, nationalization decree and former Court decisions were presented. As proof of their innocence the defendants have shown that no material damages have been created.

The voice of power argued that the Reformed Church in Sepsiszentgyörgy was not the owner of the buildings of the Mikó College since the buildings were mainly built thanks to public donations. This development is extremely perilous primarily because a significant portion of our churches and community buildings belonging to the church were also built thanks to public donations. If this logic is correct, then a house rebuilt by joint efforts from materials provided by the community of a village is also the property of the government as it was built thanks to public donations! On the other hand, it is also not insignificant that out of 1.100 restitutions this is the first (and only) case where criminal proceedings were instituted.

Despite all facts and presented evidences the primary Court sentenced Attila Markó and Tamás Marosán to 3 years of imprisonment and sentenced Silviu Clim to 3 years of suspended prison term, reasoning that the Romanian nationality member Silviu Clim is retired and has a severe heart condition. Indeed Silviu Clim is retired and has medical problems, but still the Court violates the principle of solidary responsibility.

Furthermore the Reformed Church is obligated to repay 1.2 million lei – 270.000 EUR - to the local government, the value of the rent that was paid in order to ensure the public school’s continued operation in that building.

What’s the next step of the case trial?

The first hearing of the appeal will be on the 5th October, 2012 at the Appeal Court of Ploiesti. The decision will be legally binding, thus the sentence will be final and irrevocable.

What’s the message of the Court’s decision for the Hungarian community in Romania?

The ruling of the Court has several legal, social and community related consequences, while it is based on misjudgement, it cannot be considered nor independent, nor free of pressure.

We consider the sentence as a serious threat and attack against the whole Hungarian community in Romania.

We consider that each Hungarian individual was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment, because our whole community aimed the restitution of the properties after five decades of communist regime. Thus everybody who applies the law might be condemned in future to 3 years of prison.

We are back again to the times when Church and community properties were nationalized just by a signature. Such Court decisions and fake trials serve as precedents to mayors, prosecutors, and practically to anyone who would intend the nationalization of formerly restituted properties.

Meanwhile these kinds of decisions have an important message for the Hungarian community: it shows that given rights may be taken away. It also casts doubts on the independence of the judiciary, and makes people sceptical about the ability of the legal system to seek for the truth and defend their elementary rights, such as the right to private ownership.

Our ancestors did not erect buildings and did not entrust their assets to our community so that a state that takes an antagonistic stance toward our public affairs can appropriate them by using the voice of power! Three men were convicted because that is what they believed as well.

What the Hungarian community intends to do?

The Hungarian community in Romania is firmly protesting by all means against the abusive and irrational Court ruling.

Our protest has created an unprecedented unity of the Hungarians since the fall of the communism 1989, because once irrevocable this sentence will obviously take back from the liberties and aims that the Romanian people gained since the fall of the national-communist dictatorship.

The Court sentence is an attack against the fundamental rights of the individual, it is anti-European, and it is targeted against the Hungarian national community.

We ask all political and civic organisations, church leaders and other leaders, organizations, institutions and all those persons who consider this sentence irrational and abusive, targeted against the Hungarian minority in Romania to express their protest and solidarity in this abusive situation.

We also ask you to put on the agenda, discuss and bring to public attention the information we shared with you, thus helping us enforcing the rule of law and justice in Romania.