BUDAPEST/BERLIN (Reuters) - An aide to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called into question Germany’s democratic standards on Thursday after a top German soccer club sacked a Hungarian coach for expressing anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT views.
The Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the German charge d’affaires to express shock over the dismissal on Tuesday of goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry by Hertha Berlin.
“Expressing your opinion cannot be punished under the rule of law,” Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas told reporters, asserting that Petry’s dismissal reminded him of Nazi-era Germany’s “totalitarian regime”.
“I think this is outrageous, it is foremost Germany that has to answer whether it still upholds the rule of law,” he said.
A German foreign ministry spokesman said the comments by the Hungarian government were “in no way comprehensible to us”.
“The charge d’affaires communicated this to the Hungarian government in his conversation (at the ministry). We reject the references to National Socialism in the clearest terms,” said the spokesman.
Hertha said on Tuesday that while they were satisfied with the work of the former Hungary international, comments he made that were critical of LGBTQ people and immigrants went against the club’s positions on tolerance and diversity.
Hertha spokesman Marcus Jung said on Thursday Gulyas’ parallel to Nazi Germany was a “bizarre comparison” and that the club “actively promotes social diversity, equal rights and tolerance”.
Many European Union member states, including Germany, have expressed concern about what they see as an anti-democratic drift in Hungary under Orban. His right-wing government has denied such criticism.
The government has been anti-immigration, has excluded same-sex marriage from Hungary’s constitution, limited gay adoptions and legal recognition of transgender people, and often depicted homosexuality as an aberration.
Petry was fired by Hertha for questioning what had made Red Bull Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi “stand up” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In an interview with a pro-Orban Hungarian newspaper, Magyar Nemzet, he also criticised European immigration policies, saying “criminals have flooded Europe”.
Gulacsi had protested over the Hungarian government’s anti-LGBT policies in a Facebook post.
“All people have a right to equal treatment,” Gulacsi had written. “I stand by rainbow families. Let’s speak up against hatred, let’s be more accepting and open.”
Additional reporting by Anita Komuves in Budapest, Editing by Mark Heinrich, Timothy Heritage and Giles Elgood
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