A brief history of the Hungarian Anti-terrorist Center

The first time MTI reported about plans for the establishment of a commando unit that would be separate from the centralized police force was in August 2010. However, in early June we already heard about the appointment of János Hajdu, "security director" of Fidesz, as the man who will be in charge of the terrorism threat to Hungary.

Soon enough it became clear that this special commando unit would also have the duty to protect the prime minister and the president. The official announcement simply said that the new Anti-Terrorism Center will be subordinated to "the minister in charge of the security forces"–that is, Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior. What they cagily neglected to mention was that the new unit would not only protect the prime minister but would also be under the joint jurisdiction of the Prime Minister's Office. Official announcements routinely come from the "Anti-Terrorist Center, Prime Minister's Office."

The official announcement by the Ministry of the Interior also didn't mention that ten billion forints would immediately be put aside for the commandos. The money came from the prime minister's 90 billion which he had the right to spend as he pleased. Moreover, a few months later the unit needed an additional 1.5 billion because it seems they ran out of money by the end of the year. In the 2011 budget the government allocated another 13 billion forints for TEK (Terrorelhárítási Központ).

The unit was supposed to busy itself with the prevention of terrorist acts that might threaten the country. In addition, it was given responsibility (I assume bureaucratically overlapping responsibility) for dealing with crimes that endanger people's lives such as kidnapping and crimes involving weapons. The new unit was officially established on September 1, 2010. Viktor Orbán made a celebratory speech in which he emphasized that with the establishment of TEK "Hungary made the first steps toward becoming a strong and modern country."

The government's ambitious plans for TEK included the erection of a new building. Planning already had to be at a fairly advanced stage because there was a brief news item on September 8 to the effect that the architectural plans for the new building were stolen from a car in the parking lot of a shopping center.

Up to now TEK has had three international assignments. It was involved in the eventual release of a Hungarian peacekeeper who was captured in Sudan. He was kidnapped in early October 2010 and was freed on January 5, 2011. How much of a role TEK played in his release is not clear. Péter Szijjártó announced on October 8 that "the director of TEK got in touch with the foreign terrorist centers" and a few members of the Center travelled to Sudan in order "to search for the kidnapped man with the assistance of the local and international organizations." János Hajdu in a television interview on October 29 pretty well admitted that the Sudanese government was the one that was negotiating with the kidnappers. In November János Martonyi thanked the Sudanese foreign minister for the efforts his country was making on behalf of the Hungarian peacekeeper. From these comments one has the distinct impression that the TEK men had at most a very limited role in the rescue mission. This impression is strengthened by the freed peacekeeper who thanked the people at TEK for "standing by his family in Budapest during his ordeal."

A second TEK effort concerned a Hungarian student who was studying in Thailand. The student was kidnapped in June 2011 but because of "the brilliantly executed negotiating strategy of TEK" the kidnapped student was freed. In this case, according to Hajdu, "a number of specialists in hostage negotiations and a psychologist" were sent to Thailand. Hajdu compared this case to what happened in the Sudan. Hajdu wouldn't give details but said that "the kidnappers were put under such pressure that after the negotiations ended they simply left the young man behind." From the interview it became clear that these negotiations were conducted in Hungarian. So, it seems that the kidnappers were Hungarians.

The third time TEK was involved in a foreign mission was during the Libyan war. The Hungarian government decided to send a  plane to Libya to rescue Hungarian citizens from the war-torn country. As it turned out, the rescue mission was conducted in absolutely chaotic circumstances. Among other things, they couldn't find too many Hungarians and at the end they returned to Budapest with 96 people on board from ten different countries. Out of the 96 there were only 24 Hungarian citizens. The others were Romanians, Germans, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs, and Bosnians.

Otherwise, TEK's activities have been much more pedestrian. They arrested a man for armed robbery. They also found a family who was growing marijuana in their garden. They arrested a political refugee who climbed on to the roof of the immigration and citizenship building, most likely because he was trying to call attention to his plight this way. They found a bunch of illegal weapons but the circumstances seem a bit woolly. The fellow was actually a gun dealer whose guns, according to the people of TEK, were not properly deactivated. Another time they arrested a hunter who was threatening people with his gun.

Meanwhile the opposition, whose members also read these cases and who are appalled by the amount of money spent on the Anti-Terrorist Center, kept complaining that this was a very expensive way of keeping up a "private army" for the prime minister. It didn't help TEK's case that on April 4, 2011 Blikk, a tabloid, reported that TEK purchased several expensive Audi Q7 SVUs "for its fight against dangerous criminals." The vehicles cost between 20 and 40 million forints apiece. The answer naturally was that these vehicles were absolutely necessary for the work of these brave commandos considering all the weapons they must carry. Moreover, the argument continued, it is not true that TEK is not doing serious anti-terrorist work. Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, in parliament claimed that TEK had arrested thirty criminals, although he admitted that these people were not involved in terror-related cases. Hajdu reported a different figure. According to the brigadier-general TEK  was involved with fifty criminals. Whether 30 or 50, we have no idea but only fourteen cases were reported by MTI. Not very impressive.

But consider TEK's plight. They are supposed to be the prime minister's and president's Secret Service, the nation's Homeland Security, the domestic law enforcement's swat team, and the Foreign Ministry's negotiators abroad. Is it any wonder that they act like a teenager going through an identity crisis?

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Member

“2011 Blikk, a tabloid, reported that TEK purchased several expensive Audi Q7 SVUs “for its fight against dangerous criminals.” The vehicles cost between 20 and 40 million forints apiece. ” I just read today that at the end of this Summer, 97 Hungarian Government officials received new Skoda vehicles. Who purchased the “old” Audi 6 cars that were written off in favour of the Skodas are a big secret that the Government is not willing to reveal. Wasn’t also Audi that Lazar favoured for his trips to Budapest?

Istvan Ertl
Guest

“He was kidnapped in early October 2010 and was freed on January 5, 2012.” 2011, I reckon.

Member

“”He was kidnapped in early October 2010 and was freed on January 5, 2012.” 2011, I reckon””
Everything is now possible in Orbanorszag Istvan, even time travel.

GW
Guest

Is it correct that an agency created by Ministerial fiat — and not an act of Parliament or the Constitution — has the authority to arrest in Hungary?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

GW:”Is it correct that an agency created by Ministerial fiat — and not an act of Parliament or the Constitution — has the authority to arrest in Hungary?”
Yes, it is correct. In one of the MTI report it is mentioned that TEK is the result of “kormányrendelet.” Decree, edict?

Member

“Yes, it is correct. In one of the MTI report it is mentioned that TEK is the result of “kormányrendelet.” Decree, edict?”
According to European Union’s official translations Government Decree. (You can flip between English and Hungarian versions of the official EU site for Hungary here: http://tinyurl.com/3aqajh2

Member

Napoleon took Bluebell and Jessie’s puppies. When he will start cutting rations of the animals will he keep the rations of the pigs and the dogs?

Wondercat
Guest

I suppose that the Washington Post article today, stating that governance in VOrszag is shaping itself after the Ukrainian model, will provoke comment here — I thought it very toughly and tersely put.

Paul
Guest

If it really is “an agency created by Ministerial fiat”, surely they should be driving Fiats?

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[…] 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 […]

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[…] 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 […]

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