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Police incompetence in Hungary

August 25, 2012

This will be a lighthearted post because, let’s face it, there are many occasions for laughter in Hungary, mostly at the expense of the government. It is enough to look at some of the Hungarian blogs or videos on YouTube to know that Hungarian humor is not dead.

Here are two recent stories that you may find amusing. One involves the infamous Terrorelhárító Központ (TEK). For those not familiar with this new police unit, it is the creation of Viktor Orbán for his own and the president’s protection. He made his long-time bodyguard János Hajdú brigadier general and handed him billions and billions of forints to develop a crack commando force.  On October 13, 2010, I summarized TEK’s activities and a year later I related the hilarious story of TEK’s seizure of the theater props to be used in Brad Pitt’s film “World War Z” being filmed in Hungary. The more threatening side of TEK’s legal status was analyzed in detail by Professor Kim Lane Scheppele in The New York Times under the title “The New Hungarian Secret Police.”

János Hajdú becomes brigadier-general

This time around the entire neo-Nazi crowd is having fun with TEK and its knowledgeable brigadier general, János Hajdú. The case involves the far-right Szent Korona Rádió and its website masthead, a long list of phony names. Here are a few examples. The editor-in-chief is Gyula Ostenburg-Moravek, who has been dead since 1944. His name came up the other day when we were discussing Gábor Barcsa-Turner’s threatening letter to the Kanadai Magyar Hírlap. In a footnote I explained that Ostenburg-Moravek was the leader of one of the detachments  in Miklós Horthy’s army that was responsible for the murder of two journalists of the social democratic Népszava in early 1920. Among the editors we find two other notorious detachment leaders, Pál Prónay and Iván Héjjas. The “journalists” include Mihály Szabolcska, a fifth-rate nineteenth-century poet; Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor; and Miklós Zrínyi, either the Ban of Croatia in the sixteenth century or the poet from the seventeenth century. Among the female “journalists” are Ilona Zrínyi, mother of Ferenc Rákóczi II, and Erzsébet Szilágyi, mother of King Mathias from the fifteenth century. In brief, anyone with even the most rudimentary Hungarian education should immediately know that this is a bogus list.

Yet János Hajdú, the brigadier-general, addressed an official letter to the so-called editor-in-chief Gyula Ostenburg-Moravek. In the letter Hajdú complains that Szent Korona Rádió published a photo of a member of TEK without his permission. “The Dear Mr. Editor-in-Chief” duly answered Hajdú. You can imagine in what vein. Naturally “Ostenburg-Moravek” explained the difficulties involved in receiving Hajdú’s letter since he has been long dead, but luckily “today’s Hungarian patriots often evoke [his] spirit.” “Ostenburg-Moravek” then gave Hajdú a few tips on how to run TEK. As for the paragraphs Hajdú quoted, “Ostenburg-Moravek” doesn’t recognize the validity of laws.

I don’t normally abide by the equal-time rule, but here I think it is appropriate to give equal time to ignorance. The real editors of Szent Korona Rádió don’t seem to know a lot about the former detachment leader because they claim that Ostenburg-Moravek died fighting the  “the Red Horde” when, in fact, he died in Budapest at the age of sixty.

But historical ignorance sometimes comes with a price. It is truly staggering that the top commando leader knows so little about this far-right publication and radio that he doesn’t realize that the names listed on the website are bogus. As a cop he should be just a bit more informed about the far-right groups he is supposed to keep an eye on. So much for the intelligence work of TEK and other national security officers.

Another example of the total incompetence of the Hungarian police is what happened in Csókakő. Not long ago a Horthy bust was unveiled in that picturesque village on a square that used to be called Bánya tér (Mining Square) but that the far-right leadership of the village decided to rename Nagymagyarország tér (Square of Greater Hungary).

Early today one hundred policemen surrounded the town of 1,300. No one could enter or leave without an ID. Those inhabitants who were out for a weekend stroll and happened to leave their IDs behind couldn’t get back home. The police spokeswoman for the police of Fejér County explained that the police’s action was necessary “to prevent a criminal act that the police deemed probable.” She added that thanks to the police’s action the planned criminal act was averted.

Meanwhile, the far right is laughing its head off. Kuruc.info claims that they fooled the police, whom they endearingly call “the dogs of Pintér,” the minister of interior. One hundred and thirty new recruits were to be initiated into the New Hungarian Guard (Új Magyar Gárda) today and the organizers made sure that the police would be misled. The police in Fejér County received information that a memorial tour in honor of Horthy would take place in Csókakő. Even as the policemen hermetically sealed the little town, the 130 new guardists were initiated at some other unnamed place.

Behind the ruse was János Árgyelán, the Jobbik chairman of Fejér County, who spread the news that the local Jobbik was organizing a “memorial Horthy tour” in Csókakő when in fact it was only a maneuver to divert attention from the initiation of the guardists. Jobbik and other far-right organizations amused themselves watching the police prepare for a potentially serious confrontation. The police set up tents just outside of the city limits and even brought along grills. Checklist: food and shelter okay; the bad guys–oops, missing.

The super commando force that came into being allegedly as an anti-terrorist unit and the ordinary police force still have a lot to learn. One difference between the two, by the way, seems to be that the TEK personnel make about twice as much as ordinary cops do. Otherwise, TEK seems to be busy closing off the entire street where Viktor Orbán lives. Not for a day or two but for a whole month. What is Orbán afraid of? I hope not yet another ruse.

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  1. petofi
    August 25, 2012 at 6:59 pm | #1

    Eva,

    How about examining Hungarian government paper: it’s continuing cost at levels other countries would find ruinous.
    And another important thing: who or what is that important, large
    american investment firm (person) who keeps buying Hungarian
    paper? And why is he so sure that the country is not going
    belly up?

  2. Cherry17
    August 26, 2012 at 1:40 am | #2

    Éva, do you think we will ever get to know how much this funny little operation of TEK cost Hungarian taxpayers? It seems that the tolerance threshold of the Hungarians is higher than ever.

  3. CharlieH
    August 26, 2012 at 2:51 am | #3

    London Calling!

    Ha! Ha! Ha! What a hoot!

    János Hajdú being ‘given’ TEK is so reminiscent of the communist trick of giving a sinecure to the party faithful.

    Substitute József Pelikán with János Hajdú – trying to run the swimming pool – and at the same time letting the plebs in while the party leader is enjoying his private swim – and the buffoonery is complete.

    With the TEK buffoons (goons?) you have the making of an even funnier comedy – imagine János Hajdú as Inspector Jacques Clouseau!

    I bet the regular rendőrség were more on the ball.

    Does János Hajdú have one of those country bumpkin moustaches? It would make the comedy image in my mind’s eye complete!

    What a hoot!

    Regards

    Charlie

  4. wolfi
    August 26, 2012 at 5:30 am | #4

    Well, I wish life in Hungary were as comical as in “A Tanu” – or maybe not …

    Couldn’t it be that TEK knew about the garda’s plans – and deliberately followed the wrong trail ?

    Or are they really that incompetent – it feels strange …

  5. August 26, 2012 at 6:51 am | #5

    Reblogged this on hungarianvirus.

  6. Some1
    August 26, 2012 at 8:15 am | #6

    OT Eva, My new comment on the Csurka thread awaiting moderation. Honestly I did not put any questionable words in there, so I have no idea what triggered the quarantine.

  7. August 26, 2012 at 8:34 am | #7

    Some1 :

    OT Eva, My new comment on the Csurka thread awaiting moderation. Honestly I did not put any questionable words in there, so I have no idea what triggered the quarantine.

    WordPress is erratic in this respect. I think I told you that often they end me to approve my own comments. No rhyme or reason.

  8. August 26, 2012 at 9:58 am | #8

    Cherry17 :
    Éva, do you think we will ever get to know how much this funny little operation of TEK cost Hungarian taxpayers? It seems that the tolerance threshold of the Hungarians is higher than ever.

    The police presence in Gyöngyöspata last year (a neo-nazi roma standoff that lasted days) costed 250m HUF (1.1m US). Since then they are trying not to disclose the amounts.

    I was always wondering why do they need this many cops to everywhere. How about two patrol cars, four cops to asses, then they call for backup if needed. Are they afraid that their butt will be kicked? What’s the penalty for assaulting a police officer in Hungary? Probably nothing …

  9. petofi
    August 26, 2012 at 10:23 am | #9

    No penalty for assaulting police dogs, that’s for sure…

  10. August 26, 2012 at 11:35 am | #10

    I just received a letter from a friend in Hungary who suggested that perhaps the police didn’t really make a mistake in the Csókakő case. They didn’t want to have a confrontation with the New Hungarian Guard. I am just throwing in this theory as something we can discuss.

  11. Some1
    August 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm | #11

    Eva S. Balogh :
    I just received a letter from a friend in Hungary who suggested that perhaps the police didn’t really make a mistake in the Csókakő case. They didn’t want to have a confrontation with the New Hungarian Guard. I am just throwing in this theory as something we can discuss.

    That goes back to the no clear direction from the government to underpaid police, just as I suspected at the “friendly match” between Hungary and Israel. Also, do not forget what the Hungarian police was subjected to in 2006 by Fidesz, first for not using live ammunition, then using force. The messages are mixed from the government, so they can blame someone else if something goes wrong and take all the credit if they are proven to be right.
    I am not trying to absolve the police here from wrongdoing time to time, but I want everyone to pause for a second to think about the expectations we have from each individual police man, when they have no clue what to do.

  12. CharlieH
    August 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm | #12

    London calling!

    The police must NEVER be told what to do by the government from an operational perspective. Politics must never interfere with their day-to-day operational duties.

    The government sets the policies – but the police must carry them out as they see fit.

    A sort of ‘separation’ like the judiciary.

    In England we go one step further- we have police committees at council level who advise the police on priorities – and regular contact meetings with the public to define those priorities.

    But politicians interfering? Never!

    Regards

    Charlie

  13. Jean P
    August 26, 2012 at 1:12 pm | #13

    Eva: “What is Orban afraid of?”
    Orban is afraid of the Jobbik controlled Guarda. He fears that he will fail if he attempts to imitate Hitlers clampdown on the SA. Orban does not have anything like the SS to help him. Hitler was a first rate monster. He hired first rate helpers. Orban is a second rate monster. He hires third rate helpers.

  14. August 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm | #14

    Planet Hungary Circus is in session … and now the the clowns!

    A little taste from the ATV. Footage from the event commemorating the 5th anniversary of the banned Hungarian Guard, a neo-nazi group.

    Let me just translate one comment:

    “Hungarian is the one who, when the time comes, kills 10 fucking liberals.”

    Hungary, 2012 – FIDESZ government.

  15. August 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm | #15
  16. Liberty 101
    August 26, 2012 at 2:48 pm | #16

    With love from Rish Limbaugh via the services of Arthur Finkelstein to Hungary: Hate Liberals!

    Orban has listened and is trying to empower lots of naive Hungarians to hate, oppress or worse the liberals. It is a recipe for collective suicide again.

    We the poor liberals are the only building stone to guard liberty that can be stolen by the conservative, neo-nazi, rightwing, tea party, jobbik etc movements.

    Are we strong enough to survive?

  17. August 26, 2012 at 4:51 pm | #17

    “But politicians interfering? Never!”

    Are you to young to remember the Thatcher years, and in particular the miners’ strike?

    And even if you are, surely you remember the fuss over the Chineese visit?

    The UK police are in many ways pretty good, but politically neutral? Try going on a few demos.

  18. August 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm | #18

    ‘too’ and ‘Chinese’ and ‘Paul’

    must be the heat…

  19. August 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm | #19

    Talking of the various ‘brands’ of police in Hungary these days…

    Long-serving readers will be used to my frequent comments that you never used to see police in Debrecen at all, but these days they are all over the place – often in several different uniforms. But the other day I witnessed an even stranger police moment.

    Riding down one of the main roads into town, I realised the the sirens I could hear getting rapidly louder were not the usual ambulance/fire ones, and that there appeared to be several approaching at once. Intrigued, I stopped to see what was going on.

    Coming down the road, at considerable speed were four identical, unmarked blue or black saloon cars with concealed* blue lights flashing and sirens going, followed by a similar grey car. They all had dark or blacked out windows, so i have no idea who, or how many were inside them. They swept past the ordinary traffic and disappeared towards the centre of the city.

    In all my time in Hungary I have never seen more than two or three police cars together, and certainly never seen anything like this. Was it Orbán I visiting his mate Kósa, or did I witness our first visit from TEK?

  20. August 26, 2012 at 5:14 pm | #20

    oops, forgot the *

    What I meant by concealed was not that you couldn’t see them (!), but that, when switched off, they wouldn’t have been noticeable (I think they were at the top of the widscreen, inside). So, without their lights and sirens, these cars would have looked no different from hundreds of other ‘ordinary’ cars.

  21. gdfxx
    August 26, 2012 at 5:31 pm | #21

    Liberty 101 :
    With love from Rish Limbaugh via the services of Arthur Finkelstein to Hungary: Hate Liberals!
    Orban has listened and is trying to empower lots of naive Hungarians to hate, oppress or worse the liberals. It is a recipe for collective suicide again.
    We the poor liberals are the only building stone to guard liberty that can be stolen by the conservative, neo-nazi, rightwing, tea party, jobbik etc movements.
    Are we strong enough to survive?

    The word liberal in the US has a completely different meaning from that in Hungary. Therefore, the above makes no sense (in my opinion).

  22. gdfxx
    August 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm | #22

    Paul (honest, it wasn’t me, Guv) :
    Coming down the road, at considerable speed were four identical, unmarked blue or black saloon cars with concealed* blue lights flashing and sirens going, followed by a similar grey car. They all had dark or blacked out windows, so i have no idea who, or how many were inside them. They swept past the ordinary traffic and disappeared towards the centre of the city.

    What the hell is a concealed blue light and what is it for? To scare the moths hidden inside the concealment cover?

  23. gdfxx
    August 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm | #23

    Sorry, I just read the explanation…

  24. Andreas
    August 27, 2012 at 4:14 am | #24

    Csókakő is the result of an illegal eavesdropping of the Garda leaders, therefore not only the unsuccessful and costly harassment of a village was a massive blame but also the illegal activities of the police became clear.
    Well done police.
    In the meantime Janos Hajdu, the leader of TEK, and former private body guard of Orban, proudly propagandize, that TEK is the most effective armed force of Hungary – the private army of Orban.
    Does it count if we live in democracy or dictatorship?

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