Budapest (MTI) – Ferenc Gyurcsany, prime minister during anti-government riots in 2006, said in a court testimony on Tuesday that the officers accused in connection with the riots were not guilty of the offences they had been charged with.
Gyurcsany said he had phoned deputy policy chief Arpad Szabadfi on the night of Sept. 18, 2006, when the attack on the TV headquarters in Budapest took place. He said he had given him the “request, or, if you like, the order” that the police should use all legal means to protect law and order, public safety and public buildings, including the TV headquarters. Gyurcsany said: “in a difficult situation this is a prime minister’s duty”.
Gyurcsany said he did not give any orders to police other than the one to preserve law and order.
He said Szabadfi told him early morning the next day that police had been unable to protect the TV headquarters. Then the national security cabinet held a meeting where police leaders asked the prime minister to secure funds for paying overtime in the police force, an emergency centre, technical equipment and protective gear, he said.
Gyurcsany said that the secret services had not given prior warning of the events, they only reconstructed them on Sept. 19.
To the question why police was unable to secure the TV headquarders Gyurcsany responded that an independent committee headed by Katalin Gonczol was in charge of investigating the events.
The presiding judge noted that some had raised doubts over the independence of members of the Gonczol committee, which included state employees. Gyurcsany said he believed in the separation of state service and party affiliation.
Asked why there was a lack of accountability after press reports of excesses by police who were not wearing ID badges, Gyurcsany said the Gonczol committee had established there were professional failings which were not necessarily of a criminal nature. He added that he had agreed with the need for police to wear IDs while on duty. He also added that he had fired the national police chief in May 2007 and initiated the dismissal of the Budapest police chief as well.
Gyurcsany said police were better prepared to deal with the riots on Oct 23, 2006 and that Fidesz officials were forewarned about potential safety risks linked to their rally planned at the Astoria junction for that day. The judge said Fidesz leaders had claimed they were not warned.
Gyurcsany denied the proposition made by a witness that a member of his government had organised football fans to come to the TV headquarters during its attack. He added however that there were reports of then opposition politicians being actively involved in the organisation and preparation of the events.