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Former police chiefs reprimanded over 2006 riots

November 2nd, 2015

Commentators disagree on the sentences handed down to police commanders for mishandling political violence in September 2006. Leftist authors celebrate the ruling as proof that the police were innocent, while conservatives find the blame apportioned astonishingly light.

On Thursday, the first instance Budapest Capital Regional Court reprimanded former Budapest police chief Péter Gergényi and Gábor Mittó, chief of the riot police unit that abandoned the Hungarian state television’s (MTV) headquarters, when it was attacked by rioters in 2006. This happened after the leaking of then PM Gyurcsány’s “lie-speech” (see BudaPost through 2011). The other twelve suspects charged with violent acts were acquitted because their deeds had fallen under the statute of limitations. The verdict is under appeal from both sides. 

The acquittal of policemen involved in the 2006 violence sends the message that the police are above the law and whatever they do will go unpunished, Dávid Megyeri comments in Magyar Idők. The pro-government columnist wonders if the police will use live cartridges rather than rubber bullets against demonstrators next time, if they do not have to fear criminal consequences. Megyeri claims that the court’s decision plays into the hands of former PM Gyurcsány who can now claim that his 2006 acts cannot be deemed unlawful or illegitimate.

Writing in the same daily, Péter Szikszai goes so far as to claim that “the police and the prosecutor’s office closed ranks and let sadistic animals escape justice”. Szikszai finds it outrageous that the reprimanded police chiefs were found responsible only for not investigating the commander of the squad who despite explicit orders abandoned the MTV premises when they came under attack. Szikszai thinks that it is absurd that policemen who attacked peaceful demonstrators and used excessive violence on October 23rd 2006, as well as their bosses, are off the hook. “It is clear that the aim was not to deliver justice but rather to facilitate oblivion,” Szikszai concludes.

In Magyar Nemzet, Zsuzsanna Körmendy accuses the Fidesz government of breaching its promise to administer justice and punish those policemen who were involved in the 2006 violence. The conservative pundit finds it sad that although Fidesz set up a fact finding committee, the verdict confirms former PM Gyurcsány’s version, who from the beginning said that the police in 2006 did nothing that amounts to a criminal act.

In Kettős Mérce, András Jámbor finds it disappointing that no one was found responsible for the police violence in 2006. The left-wing columnist suspects that it is not in anyone’s interest in 2015 to deliver justice for the events that happened nine years ago. The governing party finds it more important to earn the sympathy of the police than to do justice,” Jámbor suggests.

In Népszava, Jenő Veress contends that the whole trial is a political stunt. The left-wing columnist believes that the lawsuit has no real point. Concerning the verdict, Veress thinks that Gergényi and Mittó got what they deserved: a reprimand for their minor offences.

Népszabadság in a front page editorial accuses the Prosecutor’s Office of not investigating whether the 2006 riots were organized rampage events. The investigation failed to provide evidence for the responsibility of the police leaders as well, Népszabadság notes.

The verdict is perfect both for the purposes of the Fidesz government and former PM Gyurcsány, Attila Gy. Fekete comments in the same daily. The governing party can use the ruling to sustain “conspiracy theories” about the 2006 events, while former PM Gyurcsány can also claim victory.

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