No conspiracy, no crime, only dereliction of duty: “The Siege of the Television Station”

More than six years after the events of September 18-20, 2006, the Military Prosecutor’s Office in Debrecen came to the conclusion that there was enough evidence to indict a few high-level police officers. They were involved, even if indirectly, in the “Siege of the Television Station” that did  considerable damage to property and endangered the lives of the ill-equipped police officers ordered to defend the building.

The plan to prosecute these police officers was hatched right after the second Orbán government was sworn in. When parliament convened, a sub-committee was created that was charged with investigating all the illegal activities of the socialist-liberal governments between 2002 and 2010. After a less than fair investigation the committee’s Fidesz and Jobbik members, with the active assistance of the same Tímea Szabó who nowadays is the bright star of the Jávor faction of LMP, voted for an official investigation of some  high police officials. Gergely Gulyás (Fidesz), the chairman of the subcommittee, turned to the prosecutors to investigate three specific issues. First was the lack of disciplinary action against the police officers involved although the police chief of the country knew about their shortcomings. Second, the police officers who were on the scene couldn’t be identified by the number that they were supposed to wear. Third, the policemen, after leaving the building, failed to ensure the security of the employees of the TV station.

It was on November 2, 2010 that Gulyás asked the prosecutors to investigate. For two years one heard nothing about the status of the investigation. Finally, on November 12, 2012, Magyar Nemzet learned that the Debrecen regional office of the Central Investigative Prosecutors Office (Központi Nyomozó Főügyészség) had finished its investigation and that an indictment could be expected soon. At the same time the media learned that five high-level police officers would most likely be indicted: Péter Gergényi, Budapest police chief; László Bene, police chief of Hungary; József Dobozi, former chief of the Rendészeti Biztonsági Szolgálat that in the past dealt mostly with football hooligans; Zoltán Majoros, who was in charge of the men at the television station; and Gábor Mittó, who commanded the police stationed at Szabadság tér. As I found out, these were the people who actually tried to do something while others who later criticized them either did nothing or completely lost their heads.

The siege of the television stationSeptember 18, 2006

The siege of the television station
September 18, 2006

Three more months of silence transpired. It was only yesterday that we learned that, in addition to the five officers, more policemen will probably face charges. Zoltán Majoros is charged with not taking good care of his men (elöljárói gondoskodás hiánya). According to the prosecutors, Majoros knew that his men were not properly outfitted “yet he did nothing to supply them with the missing items.” I might be a bit dimwitted, but I have to ask how on earth Majoros could have done that when the entire Hungarian police force lacked the necessary equipment for such encounters.

Gábor Mittó is accused of  insubordination. Péter Gergényi is charged with negligence of measures required of a superior (elöljárói intézkedés elmulasztása). If he is found guilty, he might face a five-year prison term. László Bene is charged on two counts: not initiating disciplinary action against some of his subordinates and neglecting to enforce the law on identification numbers. József Dobozi is being indicted for not investigating the use of rubber bullets and tear gas.

In addition, the prosecutors examined 190 alleged cases of police brutality but found only ten policemen whose conduct might warrant indictment.

On the surface  the long awaited indictments seem to indicate that there might be some foundation to the Fidesz-Jobbik charges against these high police officers. And yet the results of the investigation are meager from the point of view of the government. Because we mustn’t forget that, despite their best efforts, the “crimes” that were enumerated by the so-called Balsai Report couldn’t be substantiated by the very biased Hungarian prosecutors. Or at least they didn’t feel confident enough to include these accusations in their indictment. Because what did the Balsai Report allege? The 142-page report was written by István Balsai, who was later rewarded for his efforts with a seat on the Constitutional Court. The document was full of unfounded allegations that were supposed to prove that Ferenc Gyurcsány gave direct orders to the police to commit crimes. Anyone who’s interested in the details should read my post entitled “The long arms of Viktor Orbán: The Balsai Report.”

The right-wing rhetoric about police criminals who shot out people’s eyes led nowhere. The only accusation they could come up with was dereliction of duty. There is not one word about the “cavalry charge against peaceful demonstrators” or “blinded pedestrians.”  Péter Hack, a professor of criminal law, told Népszava that if the police officers didn’t take proper care of their men they should be punished. But the charges that Balsai leveled turned out, as I always suspected, to be a pack of lies. The picture painted of the events of those days is one of the biggest falsifications in modern Hungarian history. (Another is the Kádár regime’s rewriting of the 1956 revolution to transform it into a Nazi uprising that aimed to restore the Horthy regime.)

And while we are on the subject of collapsed accusations, let me mention another interesting development in the Miklós Hagyó case. Hagyó as deputy mayor of Budapest was alleged to have carried home a 40 million forint bribe in a Nokia box and to have committed all sorts of other crimes that caused huge losses at the Budapest Transit System. I reported that one witness after the other during the trial changed his testimony, claiming intimidation by the investigating prosecutors.

When he feared that he would be arrested and that all his real estate holdings would be seized, Hagyó distributed his properties among family members. Naturally, the right-wing media cried foul. But the Kecskemét Court found that Hagyó’s properties were purchased long before he entered politics and therefore had nothing to do with the case. So yet another accusation collapsed. This is not the first and presumably not the last. Perhaps one day we will be able to get rid of all these lies.

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27 comments

  1. There are many things that are questionable about this affair. A simple question: why is the Debrecen prosecutor handling a case that involves events in Budapest?

  2. gdfxx :

    There are many things that are questionable about this affair. A simple question: why is the Debrecen prosecutor handling a case that involves events in Budapest?

    I guess we both have the same idea about why.

  3. Fall 2006 : Fidesz Kubatov Ferencvaros football hooligans

    February 2011: Mr Kubatov, the Chairman of Fidesz becomes the Chairman of Ferencvaros as well.
    http://nepszava.com/2011/02/magyarorszag/fideszes-lesz-az-ftc.html

    6 February 2013: Orban gov’t gives 6.9 billion HUF in 2013 to build a new stadium for Ferencvaros.

    http://sportmarketing.blog.nepsport.hu/archives/2013/02/06/Fradi_stadion-_szukseg_van_ra/

    12 February 2013: Football hooligans try to intimidate students protesting Orban’s policies:

    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130212_Gyertek_be__focidrukkerek_jelentek_meg_a

    Well, I think we found the Fidesz stormtroopers.

  4. What I find worrying is that this Fidesz connection is so inapt in everything except creating mess and confusion. With these meagre results in their anti-corruption or anti-2006 campaigns, people apparently need not be afraid of Fidesz’ penetrating power, but more of their systematic destruction of the normal functioning of public institutions through incapacity.

  5. So, after all that hysteria, we come down to a few hapless police commanders being blamed for the whole thing?

    It must be driving Szent Orbán mad that, whatever he tries, he still can’t get anything on Gyurcsany!

  6. tappanch :
    Fall 2006 : Fidesz Kubatov Ferencvaros football hooligans
    February 2011: Mr Kubatov, the Chairman of Fidesz becomes the Chairman of Ferencvaros as well.
    http://nepszava.com/2011/02/magyarorszag/fideszes-lesz-az-ftc.html
    6 February 2013: Orban gov’t gives 6.9 billion HUF in 2013 to build a new stadium for Ferencvaros.
    http://sportmarketing.blog.nepsport.hu/archives/2013/02/06/Fradi_stadion-_szukseg_van_ra/
    12 February 2013: Football hooligans try to intimidate students protesting Orban’s policies:
    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130212_Gyertek_be__focidrukkerek_jelentek_meg_a
    Well, I think we found the Fidesz stormtroopers.

    tappanch – I don’t want to sound churlish, especially after all the amazing research you do, but, as this is an English language blog, it inevitably has a lot of users who do not read Hungarian. And as your links are invariably in Hungarian, we are left on the sidelines of any related discussion, and often have little idea of the result of all your hard work.

    I am finding myself more and more unable to understand, let alone comment, on what is being discussed amongst the Hungarian speakers, and I would guess that I am not alone in this.

    Would it possible to include a brief summary in English of each of your Hungarian links? This would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  7. Paul, that must be part of their strategy. Make people believe that they have “plans” that they are able to realise, people get afraid of what they might accomplish, Fidesz presents other “plans”, create a mess, rearrange the public sphere in a random manner (not least because of periodic changes in the constitution), Fidesz realises only personal business of those at the top, not only average people get confused because mess is now the “system” and people retreat. That they labour on the 2006 project for so long for me testifies mainly to what amateurs they are. I read here frequently that nearly everything in Hungary is mystified by lies, conspiracies etc., people are already paralysed from shock, and Fidesz’ people are unable to “prove” some accusations that have been spread among people so easily? What puzzles me is that the shift towards autocracy has occurred without any police action, aggression and the like. They do not even need to create “martyrs”, willingly or not. They just had to mess up the public sphere.

  8. Kirsten – it works, unfortunately. From ‘conversations’ I’ve had with Hungarian friends and neighbours over the last year or two, I would say that even those not interested in politics or even those open to Western news sources/opinions, still believe in ‘no smoke without fire’ – “Gy must have done something wrong, or there wouldn’t be all this fuss about it. And, after all, didn’t he admit to lying day and night?”

    If ever there was something that disqualifies Gy from ever holding political office again, or being taken seriously as a politician again, it was that stupid, suicidal speech! No matter how good his motives might have been, he blew his career and his credibility clean out of the water that day.

    And amongst committed (they should be!) Fidesz supporters, there is an absolute, unshakeable, conviction of Gy’s overwhelming guilt (whatever the accusation), and an equally strong conviction that, if he does go unpunished, it will be because of the corrupt and evil support of his ‘friends’ and/or ‘outside forces, working against Hungary’.

  9. But what type of autocracy is Fidesz’ then? We know that they have so far always found people who were willing to cooperate with them, it is being said that people are cautious not to say scared, and in such “easy circumstances”, they come up with nearly nothing in a case where many people believe most accusations anyway? That is why it appears to me now that the most frightening in Fidesz is their ability to take over, create a mess and keep people in shock (but not their ability to “create” anything).

  10. Kirsten :
    What I find worrying is that this Fidesz connection is so inapt in everything except creating mess and confusion. With these meagre results in their anti-corruption or anti-2006 campaigns, people apparently need not be afraid of Fidesz’ penetrating power, but more of their systematic destruction of the normal functioning of public institutions through incapacity.

    How wrong you can be!
    The point of these accusations were not to get prosecutions but to bring even the police
    under the hammer of Fidesz political might: in other words, “beware, because we’ll use the full force of the various government apparatuses to hound you should you not perform to our commands.” That, strictly, is
    what these attacks are about, whether on police or past politicians. The day of democratic institutions and responsibilities…answerable to a court of justice is over. This is Orban’s ‘new government’. When a prosecution is dropped it’s not because of ‘innocence’ but because the prosecution has not, as yet, ‘found sufficient proof’, but it will in the future. The dismissal of cases is nothing less than the ‘lesse majeste’ of the government.

    The present Hungarian government are experts in the chess term, “The threat is more efficacious than the execution…”

  11. Petofi: “The day of democratic institutions and responsibilities…answerable to a court of justice is over. This is Orban’s ‘new government’.”

    Petofi is again the champion of logic. His chess analogy is brilliant.

    The plain truth is that the Orbans have got no decency, no moral, no dignity.
    The sad truth is that the Orbans can fool easily almost all people, and buy the loyalty of others. (Some of the tools are borrowed from O-USA.)

    Very few Hungarians are remaining incorruptible: Gyurcsany, Debreczeni Jozsef, Karsay Dorottya, Fazekas Csaba, and most of Galamus.hu.

  12. Note of interest. Tímea Szabó was present at the TV siege, and was at the time a Jobbik sympathizer. This can be confirmed through Gábor Hunyadi of the Jobbik legal defense service.

  13. FYI a friend of mine has recently received a 5 figure compensation for being beaten up by Hungarian policeman. Perhaps it helped that he was a US citizen. It was awarded by a European court, despite obstructive action by Hungarian authorities. So sometimes the right thing is done and there can be hope.

  14. Completely off topic but funny. I found the following announcement on the website of the Sri Lanka defense ministry: “A Hungarian delegation led by the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament Dr. Luslo Couver arrived in the island on January 30 for a brief tour.”

  15. Not about this mailing.
    But Éva, I wonder if you have had a chance to read about the Uj Polgari Torvenyek,
    about which I read in some detail on another newsller called Richpol today.

    Best, Peter

  16. OT Today, I crossed the Szabadsag Ter and notice a lots of police men and women (more than 10 (groups of 4, 2 or 3) and normally 1 or 2). When I went back an 2 hours later, there was something going on at the Szabadsag Statue (two guys with red flags and two boxes playing what seems Russian (Communistic) songs, and further a group of 30 old age people. Any idea?

  17. Correction:
    @Ron

    They must have commemorated the liberation of Buda on February 13, 1945.
    (Pest was liberated almost a month earlier, on January 18)

  18. Petöfi, so in actual fact they are “extremely clever”? Sounds for me quite similar to what Matolcsy thinks about his “unorthodox economic policy”. I suggest instead to finally see that the emperor is naked, and that people stop being scared of this band.

  19. tappanch :
    Correction:
    @Ron
    They must have commemorated the liberation of Buda on February 13, 1945.
    (Pest was liberated almost a month earlier, on January 18)

    Really, and no Hungarian politician nor the Russian Ambassador to commemorate this? Wow. Sorry I am very surprised?

  20. It will take a while until people finally stop being scared of Fidesz.

    There is a pervasive culture of fear, a kind of bully (no Hungarian term for that) culture that operates throughout the country.

    The local bullys are very difficult to resist, you have to live together with them, it is not like in Budapest. And they don’t forget and they protect each other, it is like a mafia where loyalty is absolute and unquestioning. But if you take the ‘oath’ you will be protected no matter what.

    Meanwhile if you are a Bajnai fan in Kiskunlacháza, who will protect you? Nobody. You are out in the cold, it’s pretty scary.

    Fidesz’ power comes from the option to use power at any moment, they don’t even have to threat, as adversaries realise the existence of the option and behave accordingly.

    Having said that Fidesz does often use power. It is the same as the game theory behind the US/USSR relations in the cold war. They both had the nuclear option and engaged in smaller wars from time to time to show that they actually have capabilities (of course they both lost a lot too, but everyone could see that they were willing to suffer damage and cause damage, whatever the outcome).

    How do you break a real mafia? It is a big question. The NDrangetha or Camorra are alive and kicking, stronger than ever (the Cosa Nostra may be more reserved these days, but they havent desappeared either) acting as quasi governments.

    Big question,no easy answer.

  21. @Eva. May I suggeste that Pester Lloyd be included in your blogroll. It is a good supplement to HS and it can come up with jokes like this:

    Orban is revealing to “Papa Ratzi” that he desires to become the next pope. Now verbatim: Auf die Frage, was ihn zum Papst qualifiziere, entgegnete Bruder Viktor: Schau mal, Józsi, in unserer Verfassung steht ganz oben: Gott segne Ungarn! Da ich der Chef der Ungarn bin, bin ich also logischerweise der Stellvertreter Gottes… Dem päpstlichen Einwand, dass er aber doch Protestant sei, widersprach Orbán aufs heftigste. Seit er das Amt inne habe, gäbe es in Ungarn keinerlei Protestanten, nur noch Zustimmung, wie man zum Beispiel auf den Friedensmärsche begeisterter Schafe sehen könne.

  22. Petofi can skip this. His dignity shines beyond reach.

    Our human dignity is important.

    When readers write a comment here, please make sure to maintain your own dignity ad integrity, and refrain from violating the dignity of the others.

    The October 2006 events were painful. It is impossible to skip the reports on the riots by a common mob.

    The dignity of Hungary was wounded in 2006. Let us keep our comments honest. We can lose our own dignity if we repeat the lies of the Orban team.

  23. Kirsten :
    Petöfi, so in actual fact they are “extremely clever”? Sounds for me quite similar to what Matolcsy thinks about his “unorthodox economic policy”. I suggest instead to finally see that the emperor is naked, and that people stop being scared of this band.

    Only Orban and his handlers are clever; the rest are sycophants knowing well that to stay in line is to stay on a lucrative payroll and have superior business opportunities.

    Not to be afraid? Are you kidding? When the powers-that-be are fully empowered to do as they wish with no fear of institutions, media, or courts? Look at what they’ve done with Csatary? Mums the word and nary
    a journalist, including the highly regarded Kalman Olga, sees fit to question why his matter hasn’t been dealt with by the authorities. It’s all brushed under the carpet. How disgusting, I might add, that none of the so-called ‘well meant liberal politicians’ have seen fit
    to bring the Csatary question up either.

    The blanket of intimidation is well nigh complete and covers all.

  24. petofi :

    Kirsten :
    Petöfi, so in actual fact they are “extremely clever”? Sounds for me quite similar to what Matolcsy thinks about his “unorthodox economic policy”. I suggest instead to finally see that the emperor is naked, and that people stop being scared of this band.

    Only Orban and his handlers are clever; the rest are sycophants knowing well that to stay in line is to stay on a lucrative payroll and have superior business opportunities.
    Not to be afraid? Are you kidding? When the powers-that-be are fully empowered to do as they wish with no fear of institutions, media, or courts? Look at what they’ve done with Csatary? Mums the word and nary
    a journalist, including the highly regarded Kalman Olga, sees fit to question why his matter hasn’t been dealt with by the authorities. It’s all brushed under the carpet. How disgusting, I might add, that none of the so-called ‘well meant liberal politicians’ have seen fit
    to bring the Csatary question up either.
    The blanket of intimidation is well nigh complete and covers all.

    You are right about this. Look what is happening to György Balavány. He use to be pro-Fidesz, and now he is criticizing them in his blog. Now he is fighting in the court with MTVA.

    Following is in Dutch: http://www.scribblesfromhungary.com/2013/02/we-gaan-kapot-aan-de-angst-en.html

  25. Ron, thank you for the link. I think I understood the main messages quite well, and it is good to see that even earlier stern supporters of Fidesz start to change sides.

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