Katalin Novak, the president of Hungary, has announced her resignation in response to widespread public condemnation of her decision to pardon a man accused of child sexual assault.
“I decided to grant a pardon last April, believing that the convict did not exploit the vulnerability of the children whom he had overseen,” Novak said in a nationwide televised address on Saturday.
“I made a mistake, as the pardon and the lack of reasoning were conducive to triggering doubts about the zero tolerance that applies to pedophilia,” she told the reporter.
On Friday, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Budapest, the country’s capital, demanding that Novak resign.
Novak pardoned almost two dozen individuals in April 2023 in preparation for Pope Francis’ arrival, including the deputy director of a children’s home who assisted the prior director in concealing his crimes. According to Reuters, the director was sentenced to eight years in jail for sexually assaulting minor boys from 2004 to 2016.
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The deputy director got a three-year term.
According to Reuters, Novak was on an official travel to Doha at the time demonstrators arrived at her office.
Hungarian opposition groups have asked that Novak resign.
Novak is a close supporter of Hungary’s extreme nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and a former family minister. In 2022, she became the first woman to fill the primarily ceremonial position of Hungarian President.
Saturday’s message was her penultimate as president, less than two years after taking office.
In her broadcast remarks on Saturday, she apologized to the victims and their families, admitting that she had “made a mistake.”
Novak apologized “to those whom I may have offended and to all the victims who might have felt that I did not stand up for them,” adding that she has always “consistently advocated for the protection of children and families.”