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Former Budapest police-chief indicted

February 14th, 2013

A pro-government commentator welcomes a decision by the Prosecutor’s Office to prosecute former Budapest police chief Péter Gergényi for his involvement in the 2006 riots, but finds it problematic that it took more than six years to bring the case to court.

In September 2006, an angry mob attacked and ransacked the public television headquarters, set cars on fire and injured several unarmed policemen, after the evening news refused to broadcast their protest statement. This took place the day after Socialist PM Ferenc Gyurcsány’s so-called ’Őszöd speech’ was leaked, in which he admitted that the MSZP ’lied day and night’ to the voters before the 2006 election (see BudaPost September 19, 2011). According to the prosecutor’s indictment, the riot police were waiting nearby but were ordered not to intervene. Six tense weeks later, on October 23rd the police used rubber bullets and tear gas, and beat up people going home after a peaceful Fidesz-rally. At the time they claimed they were pursuing a small group of hooligans from a separate, unrelated event. Ferenc Gyurcsány was blamed by some right wing commentators for both incidents, but no charges were brought against him (see BudaPost September 28, 2011). Prosecutors have now charged two other police officers for not interfering when the police used excessive force and failing to ensure that members of the riot police wore identification badges as prescribed by law (see BudaPost March 6, 2012).

Tamás Pilhál in Magyar Nemzet describes the indictment as bittersweet news. Those injured during the storming of the television building and later on October 23rd will not be healed by the judicial process. He notes that while Gergényi is charged with putting the lives of policemen at risk during the first riot, the policemen who used excessive force against demonstrators in October will go unpunished. He reminds readers that although some 200 cases of police brutality have been investigated, prosecutors ’could not identify the perpetrators.’ Pihál also quotes Gordon Bajnai as stating that the current opposition who were in government at that time, must acknowledge their responsibility for the 2006 riots. It would not be surprising, he concludes, if Gergényi, “under the shadow of a prison sentence”, came to the same conclusion.

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