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Counter-terrorism unit criticized

November 28th, 2015

Left-wing and liberal columnists ridicule TEK, Hungary’s top counter-terrorism unit for swooping on ‘memorabilia enthusiasts’ with their horde of weapons and explosives. A pro-government commentator defends TEK’s action, although he finds its communication strategy misleading.

On Tuesday, Janos Hajdu, head of the TEK, Hungary’s elite counter-terrorism squad announced that his unit arrested two Hungarian and two foreign individuals possessing weapons (including machine guns and home-made silencers), explosives, and also uncovered a bomb laboratory. Hajdu suggested that the four people could be part of an extremist network. Media reports suggested that the suspects could be jihadist radicals. On Wednesday, a Budapest court rejected the request of prosecutors (a rare event in Hungary) to hold the suspects in custody. The judge affirmed that the suspects had no ties to terrorist organizations, but were in fact World War Two hobbyists who had dug up weapons and ammunition in a forest. The judge also noted that one of the suspects lives with his parents. Index.hu, however, reports that two of the arrested individuals do have ties to far-right groups, and also have a criminal record – for illegal possession of firearms. 

András Jámbor in Kettős Mérce accuses János Hajdu of deliberately misleading the public by not making it clear from the beginning that the arrested individuals are not suspected of having ties to jihadist groups. The left-wing blogger finds it alarming that the head of Hungary’s top counter-terrorism squad foments public hysteria about hypothetical terrorist attacks. In conclusion, he wonders if Hajdu was motivated by political considerations.

In 444, Márton Bede takes the case as proof that the counter-terrorism unit is unfit for its job. The liberal commentator fears that the TEK squad would not be capable of defending Hungarians in the event of a real terrorist threat. Bede goes so far as to suggest that “the counter-terrorism unit is a more immediate threat to us than the Islamic State.”

Liberals have gone nuts,” Péter Szikszai comments in Magyar Idők  on such left-wing and liberal opinions. The pro-government columnist recalls that the four arrested individuals possessed guns and explosives, and thus the counter-terrorism unit was absolutely right to detain them. Szikszai admits that it was a huge mistake on Hajdu’s part not to make it explicit that the detainees had no ties to Islamic extremists. Nonetheless, Szikszai finds it absurd to suggest, as even the Budapest Court did, that hobbyists who live with their parents and carry weapons in their cars pose no public threat – after all, Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far right mass murderer also lived with his mother until the age of 30. He goes on to add that courts in the past were much stricter with far-right individuals who possessed guns, even if they posed no immediate threat to the public. In an aside, Szikszai notes that the current case also shows that the Hungarian judicial system is independent of the government.

On Friday, the Ministry of the Interior said that in addition to the four young individuals, the police arrested  further two Hungarian citizens who planned to assassinate a government politician. The tabloid Blikk suspects that the target was PM Orbán.

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