The interior ministry on Tuesday rejected Amnesty International’s accusations that Hungarian police have used excessive force against anti-government protesters in recent days, saying that police remained calm “despite being exposed to constant attacks”.
In a statement on Monday, AI said Hungarian police “must rein in unnecessary and excessive force, including the use of tear gas, against peaceful protesters”. AI’s Deputy Director for Europe Massimo Moratti said the police’s use of “unnecessary and excessive force against peaceful protesters” must not be repeated again. He called on the police to use force “only when strictly necessary and only when all other means to contain the violence have failed”. The ministry’s statement said Moratti “must be responding to events that took place in a city other than Budapest where police deployed stun, water and tear gas grenades, water cannons and horse-mounted units” on protesters.
Despite the fact that protesters “caused injuries to 15 police officers and two million forints’ of damage to police equipment”, the authorities did not use excessive force on demonstrators, the ministry said. It said protesters who chant “Let the Christmas tree burn!” and “Let the police burn!” and attempted to break through the police cordon and pushed others onto the police line could not be considered peaceful. The ministry said the right to freedom of expression is incompatible with damaging, stealing and setting fire to the sleds intended for children in need that were placed around the Christmas tree on Kossuth Square. “Damaging and polluting public buildings and spaces are acts of violence — and these were committed by protesters,” it added.
National security committee meeting lacks quorum
A national security committee meeting with recent events at public media MTVA headquarters on its agenda lacked quorum on Tuesday because ruling party representatives stayed away from it. The extraordinary meeting was originally initiated by deputy committee head Janos Halasz and Gyorgy Hubay, both of ruling Fidesz, to discuss an immunity request, committee head Adam Mirkoczki, of conservative opposition Jobbik, said. However, in a letter sent on Tuesday morning, the interior minister requested that the subject be removed from the agenda, he added.
Mirkoczki said that he and Socialist representative Zsolt Molnar then initiated a debate on current “national security issues” but eventually neither the ruling party representatives nor those invited showed up. Fidesz told MTI that their representatives had stayed away because the interior minister had withdrawn the topic that would have served as the reason for the meeting, and the other item on the agenda submitted later “only involved the opposition trying to create a political scandal.”
Mirkoczki insisted that it would have been in the ruling parties’ interest to show up for the meeting to discuss the events of the past several days and how far the authority of MPs and armed security guards extends. He said the meeting would have also served to determine which side had erred during the protests in front of MTVA’s headquarters.
Mirkoczki told reporters after the meeting that when he and LMP lawmakers visited the national police headquarters on Monday, they were promised that the police chief would attend today’s committee meeting and answer questions in connection with the recent demonstrations.
The Socialist Party’s Zsolt Molnar said Fidesz and the co-ruling Christian Democrats were avoiding discussing any issues that are “uncomfortable” for them. Peter Ungar of opposition LMP said that “the fact that the ruling parties’ MPs have fled” meant that they were “incapable of backing up even their own statements”. Agnes Vadai of the leftist opposition Democratic Coalition, who is not a member of the committee but has security clearance to attend its meetings, told reporters that it was “worrying” that the interior minister had yet to address the recent events on Kossuth Square and in front of and inside the MTVA headquarters. She vowed to try to convene a meeting of the defence and law enforcement committee to discuss the demonstrations. Vadai was asked by a correspondent of current affairs channel M1 after the meeting why the opposition lawmakers who entered the MTVA headquarters had claimed that they would not try to force their way into the studios when they later did so on multiple occasions. Vadai replied by asking whether she or any other MP had entered the studios. Molnar said the door to the studio was unbreachable. Vadai told M1 that she did not think the lawmakers had acted beyond their rights attached to their parliamentary mandate.
Kovacs: Hungarian parliament led by Hungarian people
The Hungarian Parliament is led by the Hungarian people, Zoltan Kovacs, state secretary for international communications, said in a Monday evening interview to CNN. Kovacs noted the Fidesz government had won two-thirds of the seats in parliament in a free and open election decided by the Hungarian people. Responding to questions about opposition protests in recent days, Kovacs said the opposition does not represent the majority of Hungarians.
Scenes of demonstrations in news reports over recent days are evidence of political action taken against the government, he said. Selected footage of alleged police violence was in fact a reaction to violent crowd behaviour, he added. He said was surprising that the international media had not reported the country’s strong economic and wage growth and low unemployment instead. Regarding the law allowing voluntary overtime, he said claims made by the opposition were unfounded, and any overtime would depend on the employer and employee coming to an agreement.
Asked about the new law on setting up an administrative court system, Kovacs said the legislation was “in line with EU approaches and standards”. Kovacs said criticism of the government was being directed by NGOs backed by US billionaire George Soros. He added that Soros believed he had a right to interfere in the affairs of a democratically elected parliament.
Source and photo: MTI