Hungary's former communist minister Bela Biszku given 5½-year prison sentence for war crimes

A Budapest court has sentenced former communist-era interior minister Bela Biszku to five years and six months in prison for war crimes related to reprisals against civilians after the anti-Soviet revolution of 1956.

The 92-year-old Biszku was a member of the Communist Party's ruling interim executive committee after the October 1956 uprising was defeated by Soviet forces. The committee created armed militias to carry out the repression, including firing indiscriminately into crowds at two rallies in December 1956 — one in Budapest and another in the town of Salgotarjan — killing 49 people.

Biszku was also found guilty on Tuesday of other charges, including denying crimes committed by the communist regime — which, like denying the Holocaust, is illegal in Hungary.

The verdict can be appealed.