Murder suspects in Hungary face unlimited pre-trial custody under new proposals criticised by opposition politicians on Thursday as unconstitutional, reports.

The changes, outlined by the ruling Fidesz party on Wednesday, are set to go before parliament where Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has a two-thirds majority within two weeks. At present European Union member state Hungary allows for suspects awaiting trial to be in custody for a maximum of four years. The new proposals are the latest in a string of controversial moves by Orban’s right-wing government since he swept to power in 2010. They follow a high-profile case in which two men awaiting trial for murder were put under house arrest after their four years expired, and then fled the country. The two gang members allegedly carried out a series of violent robberies against elderly people in 2008 and 2009 that left two of their victims dead. They were re-arrested in Switzerland on Wednesday, police said.

The said, Gergely Gulyas, a lawmaker with Fidesz, told a press conference on Wednesday that the changes would apply to murder suspects facing 15-year jail terms or more. Fidesz also proposes to fit suspects under house arrest with tracking devices, Gulyas said.

Opposition MPs however objected to the plans, with Tamas Harangozo from the Socialist party calling the proposals “anti-constitutional”. Only last week a UN report criticised Hungary for “excessive use of pre-trial detention” and the lack of effective legal assistance as a safeguard against arbitrary detention. Up to 28 % of the prison population in Hungary were pre-trial detainees, including juvenile or young offenders, the report said.

“The regular use of pre-trial detention, as under international human rights law, should be an exceptional measure,” said UN expert El Hadji Malick Sow.


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