February 14th, 2017

Former Budapest police chief fined over violence during 2006 riots

The appeals court of Budapest fined Péter Gergényi, the former Budapest police chief, 400,000 forints (EUR 1,290) in a case related to police handling of violent anti-government riots in autumn 2006. The court acquitted another defendant of charges of negligence. The 2006 riots were triggered by the leak of Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech behind closed door at a party meeting in which he confessed that his party had lied about the state of the economy to win the 2006 election.

Charges in connection with the riots were first raised against the police leaders in early 2013. The prosecution’s indictment said that Gergényi had acted in full knowledge that chaos had erupted due to a lack of coordination of police forces during the attack on the television headquarters in central Budapest on September 18 and anti-government demonstrations on October 23. Former national police chief László Bene was accused of ignoring orders, such as one requiring police officers to wear identity badges during riot patrols, among others.

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  • The prosecution’s indictment said that Gergényi had acted in full knowledge that chaos had erupted due to a lack of coordination of police forces during the attack on the television headquarters in central Budapest on September 18 and anti-government demonstrations on October 23.

    So “full knowledge” is bad nowadays?
    Should ‘partial knowledge’ be better?

    The September 18th attack on the MTV-house was not expected or prepared for.
    This type of extremely violent demonstrations, with lot of molotov-cocktails being thrown and even set one of the Budapest Police water-cars on fire (while the staff was still inside), had not happened since the Cuban students riots in early 1970 over racism.
    The Hungarian, read Budapest, riot Police was not trained, nor had the organisational skills to handle such a violent and volatile situation, both September 18 and October 23. As Police Chief you need to work with the resources you have and I find it strange that any Commanding Police Officer should be charged for the September 18 riots, especially as hardly any rioters were charged and afterwards Fidesz nullified all convictions in 2010.

    When it came to October 23rd, the situation was different and Police had got 2-3 weeks to prepare, but still tactical skills in riot control was missing (takes years to build up) and the heavy dependence on water-cars made the Police tactic rather useless while the crowds just moved away before the minimum half-hour the Police needed to gather their forces in attack position.
    Hence the extreme reliance and usage of teargas, then that was easier to organise than getting the water-cars with a few hundred Officers lined up on an enough wide street.
    The problem was not so much during these initial hours, then people who obstruct a warning to move away are a legal target for legal violence. The problem was more the part was happened afterwards in the evening when some Officers went hunting for some object of their frustration. The problem here is that they do this normally also, but then the targets are normally Roma or today the refugees, but now it was (alleged) Fidesz supporters, hence the uproar.

    A financial penalty, that is maybe a week’s salary (maximum) for this former Police Chief sounds a bit low, then IF he should be convicted, prison is probably the correct penalty, but then for some real crime, not just another failed attempt for revenge from Fidesz.

    One should also remember that the Fidesz’ Minister of Interior (for life), Pinter, always was a good friend with Péter Gergényi and always protected him. Pinter knows that his Police Chief today would also screw up if any similar violent riots would occur in Budapest today. Here the 2006, mainly Fidesz supporters, have a lot to learn from Romanian anti-Government protesters 2017, so without violence, but so far more effective than Fidesz was 2006.

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