Hungarian Church Leaders Could Face Revelations Of Communist Past

Budapest, Hungary - Former and current religious leaders in Hungary could face being exposed as communist informers after a court on Thursday classified them as public figures.

Under Hungarian law, those who play or have played a role in the country's public life face the possibility of having their communist past examined by researchers and historians in the secret police archives.

The non-binding decision by Budapest City Court, while wide ranging, referred specifically to three Catholic bishops plus Evangelical and Jewish leaders.

Journalist Daniel Kozak brought the case after being refused access to the documents of the leaders on the grounds that they were not public persons.

Kozak said he was satisfied with the decision and that it was important to allow access to the files as religious leaders "needed to be credible when talking about moral issues".

However, the judgement does not mean that the details of religious leaders' pasts as informers - should they actually have any - will immediately come out.

Despite repeated promises by successive governments, the secret police files are yet to be fully opened up.

Only people mentioned in reports, historians and researches can access the archives and in practice this means that information about former informers comes out in dribs and drabs.

This time last year Cardinal Laszlo Paskai - the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church between 1987 and 2002 - was revealed to have been a communist informer.

Former Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy was also outed while in office.

Hungary remained under communism from just after the end of the Second World War until 1989/1990, when the nation changed over to democracy.