Massive police “inspection” in Budapest on Sunday

I almost missed the 24-hour-long police action in the nine districts of the left bank of the Danube, which means the entire Pest side of Budapest. Thousands of policemen worked diligently starting at “Sunday morning zero hour” to stop and search cars. These guardians of law and order had the authority to examine the clothing of the passengers and could search their cars looking for “instruments that may endanger public safety.” When reporters inquired why this heightened alert, the police refused to reveal the reason for what police jargon calls “increased inspection” (fokozott ellenőrzés).

It was twenty years ago that I first experienced similar Hungarian police tactics. I was riding with relatives when the car was pulled over for no good reason by two young policemen who wanted to see the driver’s license. I was somewhat shaken, but it turned out that this was common practice. Later an Internet friend reported that during a fairly short trip he was stopped three times. In any case, my relatives took the whole incident in stride.

These periodic checks of absolutely innocent drivers are annoying enough, but this latest full-scale “raid,” as Magyar Nemzet called it, is most likely unconstitutional. At least this is what the Hungarian Helsinki Committee thinks. On July 19 the organization, after a similar raid of a private club maintained by a Jewish youth organization, turned to Máté Szabó, the ombudsman, to inquire about the constitutionality of such police raids.

About a month ago the police stepped up its inspection of motorcyclists and bicyclists in Budapest, allegedly “because during the summer there are accidents every day that involve motorcycles and bicycles.” Twenty-five percent of those inspected were found guilty of breaking various rules and regulations. These inspections are ordered because the leaders of the Hungarian police force claim that  they serve the purpose of “reducing the number of crimes, preventing illegal activities and forestalling traffic accidents.” The fines, of course, also bring in much needed revenue.

When the Budapest police chief was asked the reason for this latest mega-inspection, he refused to divulge its purpose. According to Ferenc Krémer, an expert on police matters, not divulging the reason for police actions was “the customary practice of the Kádár regime.” In fact, a policeman who approaches a vehicle during these inspections must inform the passengers of the car of the purpose of his mission and ask for their cooperation. Naturally, in this case no such practice was followed because there was no declared reason for the search.

Now comes the question of what is considered to be a bodily search (motozás in Hungarian). It seems that according to the official police definition such a search includes bodily cavities, and it can be performed only in the presence of a doctor. However, the “search of clothing,” which is currently allowed, is also an intrusion because after all it entails what we call “frisking” in English–that is, searching  for something concealed, especially a weapon, by passing the hands quickly over clothes or through pockets. Well, to my mind this is also “motozás.” Searching the car is also questionable according to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, especially since the European Court of Justice already made a ruling forbidding it in a case involving the U.K. police force.

"Increased inspection" MTI / Photo Sándor H. Szabó

“Increased inspection”
MTI / Photo Sándor H. Szabó

The argument that these periodic searches of people and cars are instrumental in crime prevention has no foundation. While the number of police actions has been steadily growing since September 2012 when the new national police chief took over, so has the number of crimes.

As I said, I almost missed this news, mostly because the Hungarian media didn’t pay much attention to it. A well known Hungarian journalist e-mailed me this morning complaining about the scant coverage. Given the secrecy and the large scale of the “increased inspection,” he suspects that the real aim of this and similar raids is intimidation. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were right.

Fidesz leaders have certainly used intimidation before. And here’s one small example from today. In a Miskolc hospital eight premature babies died over a short period of time. Viktor Orbán himself stepped in. He suspended the director of the hospital and personally ordered the police to investigate and darkly mentioned the possible role of the National Security Office in the case. I’ll bet that everybody in that hospital is shaking in their boots at the moment. It’s not every day that a prime minister suspends hospital personnel and orders a police investigation of an individual hospital’s practices.

The dark message? The police, the government’s enforcement agency, should be feared and the population should understand that “raids” can come at any time, with no probable cause required and no justification necessary. This kind of intimidation belongs in a police state, not in a democracy.

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TunesiaAgain
Guest

These intrusions will lead to an accidental blow out, expressed in self-immolation.
It will spark the revolution.
Or the final silence.

Ron
Guest

Eva I do not think it is only intimidation of hospital personnel. But also acting immediately before anybody can say that it is better to have privatization of the hospital system in Hungary. Fidesz was very much against this, and reversed most, if not all of it.

See for example this re. 2008 http://hetivalasz.hu/english_hungary/is-health-good-business-25764

Although terrible for the parents, babies and their families. I am not surprised that this happened. However, they use to be some kind of epidemic department of the government, and this department was always doing the research why infections are happening. I do not understand why they are not called in?

I wonder, if doctors and/or nurses are charged, how many of them are going abroad.

Ron
Guest

If you google on “fokozott ellenőrzés” you noticed that this is not only in Budapest the last weekend. In fact it is happening since February throughout the country every month.

This weekend is was Pest, Nyireghaza. Weekend before that Sarbogard. Also sometimes the Police needs to get the people out for budget reasons (they need to make the targets otherwise their budget will be cut).

Conspiracy mode on:
Because the Romanian Police frisked our kids in Romania, we will do the same in Budapest.after the Sziget.
http://szegedma.hu/hir/szeged/2013/08/fokozott-hatosagi-ellenorzes-az-emi-taborban.html
Conspiracy mode off.

Paul
Guest

Message to terrorists and criminals – walk.

Paul
Guest

I’ve just started reading Anne Applebaum’s ‘Iron Curtain – the crushing of Eastern Europe’ and the introduction includes much discussion of what constitutes a totalitarian regime.

I can’t remember the exact detail (and typically I now can’t find it!), but it included no political choice, state control of media, nationalisation of industry and retail, central control of the economy, schooling, etc. And, of course, it was interesting to compare this definition with Orbán’s Hungary.

Although he has more or less achieved some of these aspects and is on his way to achieve others, I was relieved to see that he didn’t really come up to scratch when compared to the real totalitarian regimes. There were several areas where he was a long way from meeting the qualifications.

And the main one of these was the establishment of a police state…

Pomócsi bácsi
Guest
All true, I completely agree. However, people crave security and reward politicians for it, or rather for the appearance of making efforts to establish security. Of course, the trick is that there is no real danger in the first place, but whatever. In the US, there is now a police state, but are people angry about the fact that your emails are recorded for eternity and, by the way, are also forwarded by the NSA to other agencies so they can cherry pick interesting emails? Btw great article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/magazine/laura-poitras-snowden.html?ref=magazine&pagewanted=all Do people care about the facts that you have to stand in line at least an hour to get through airport security, get yourself radiated (I choose the pat down) and take off your shoes and belt, which have zero relevance, all in the name better security? No, except for the Guardian and the foreigners, nobody cares and even to raise the issue is a taboo, as you get on the no flight/harrassment list as in the linked article. Everybody else is happy as can be and can have the illusion that everything is fine and we have a responsible government (and that there was a danger, or there is still… Read more »
die Mücke
Guest
All true, I completely agree. However, people crave security and reward politicians for it, or rather for the appearance of making efforts to establish security. Of course, the trick is that there is no real danger in the first place, but whatever. In the US, there is now a police state, but are people angry about the fact that your emails are recorded for eternity and, by the way, are also forwarded by the NSA to other agencies so they can cherry pick interesting emails? (Btw fantastic cover story in this weeks NYtimes Magazin about a journalist lady, highly recommended. Already online, but will not link it as her name is too dangerous even to write down as you will find out from the article.) Do people care about the facts that you have to stand in line at least an hour to get through airport security, get yourself radiated (I choose the pat down) and take off your shoes and belt, which have zero relevance, all in the name better security? No, except for the Guardian and the foreigners, nobody cares and even to raise the issue is a taboo — for political reasons but also you don’t want… Read more »
An
Guest

@Ron: “However, they use to be some kind of epidemic department of the government, and this department was always doing the research why infections are happening. I do not understand why they are not called in?”

They are called ANTSZ and probably they don’t understand it either. My guess is that because sending the police and the national security office is more spectacular.

gdfxx
Guest
die Mücke : All true, I completely agree. In the US, there is now a police state, but are people angry about the fact that your emails are recorded for eternity and, by the way, are also forwarded by the NSA to other agencies so they can cherry pick interesting emails? (Btw fantastic cover story in this weeks NYtimes Magazin about a journalist lady, highly recommended. Already online, but will not link it as her name is too dangerous even to write down as you will find out from the article.) Do people care about the facts that you have to stand in line at least an hour to get through airport security, get yourself radiated (I choose the pat down) and take off your shoes and belt, which have zero relevance, all in the name better security? No, except for the Guardian and the foreigners, nobody cares and even to raise the issue is a taboo — for political reasons but also you don’t want to be singled out by the police state. Everybody else is happy as can be and can have the illusion that everything is fine and we have a responsible government (and that there was… Read more »
Guest
Re police checks in Hungary: As a foreigner with a car with German licence plates I’ve also been stoppe sevral times . but less than once a year. Several times the policemen just looked at me and waived me on – probably I look “German” enough … Twice I had to show my driving licence and the cars papers and one of the policeman went around the car to look at the plate – seems they were only interested in the question: Has the car insurance and its “MOT” (müszaki vizsga) – it seems that some foreigners have cars in Hungary without technical checks nor insurance which is very dangerous of course. A bit OT: I gave my second car to one of my wife’s sons when they had a baby – made it much easier for them, of course with an authorization paper. That was ok for a while but once he was stopped on the way back to Budapest where they live and the policeman said to him that such an authorization was only valid for max 24 hours and he would have to fine him and the car would have to stay – maybe that was one… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Wolfi: Still you see a lot of rich Hungarians driving large SUVs with Slovak licence plates (also in Hévíz) – wonder how thesew people manage. If I were a policeman, that would be the first thing I’d check – but no one is intersted …

Oh yes they are interested. In fact in 2011 Fidesz passed a law forbidding Hungarians living in Hungary (if they can not prove that they are living abroad) to drive foreign licence plate cars.

It was a tax scam. In Hungary people pay twice the VAT plus some other taxes. And these taxes are not tax deductible resulting in high purchase prices of cars. So the scam was to set up a company in mainly Slovakia or Germany and buy a car and put it on the name of the company.

They in fact would not be a big problem, but it were mainly expensive cars (BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Porche), and some of them did not obey the rules and if difficult to enforce the law on these people.

So when the law was passed only Hungarian living abroad could drive foreign licence plate cars. http://totalcar.hu/magazin/kozelet/2012/03/29/adocsalokat_fogtunk/

Ron
Guest

Ron :
Eva I do not think it is only intimidation of hospital personnel. But also acting immediately before anybody can say that it is better to have privatization of the hospital system in Hungary. Fidesz was very much against this, and reversed most, if not all of it.
See for example this re. 2008 http://hetivalasz.hu/english_hungary/is-health-good-business-25764
Although terrible for the parents, babies and their families. I am not surprised that this happened. However, they use to be some kind of epidemic department of the government, and this department was always doing the research why infections are happening. I do not understand why they are not called in?
I wonder, if doctors and/or nurses are charged, how many of them are going abroad.

Okay forget what I said. It is revenge. I went to Eva’s articles on Viktor Orban’s Predicament (April 15, 2010) http://hungarianspectrum.org/2010/04/page/2/

And in this article she talked about the Stratégiai Szövetség a Magyar Kórházakért Egyesület. This organization want to cash in on the election win in 2010 by demanding billions of forints. Dr Gabor Chiba is one of the guys asking money. Website: http://www.stratszov.hu/tagok.html

BUENDIA BEE
Guest

The weekend in Hungary was full of raids, all over the country, obviously.
The people who visited the Ozora Festival near Lake Balaton, had been searched one by one, taken from shuttle busses and intimidated by not outspokenly friendly police officers. It was clear to me, that this kind of interference of a festival is meant to destroy it and to make visitors think twice if they would come back next year. My impression on the festival itself was, that it didn’t work and people will come again.
And there was another festival going on in Hungary, Sziget. Maybe all these is connected to the massive appearance of young people from all over the world. After what happened in and around Ozora I could imagine that.

petofi
Guest

“The dark message? The police, the government’s enforcement agency, should be feared…”

The Felcsutian Diktator at his best. Of course, the first such police action is to show Viktor’s ‘humane’ side–his worry of some misdeed. But this is just a prelude, or the groundwork, for later action that will have no ‘humanitarian’ background. Brick by brick, the Kastle is being built…

And the moronic Hungarians will, all the while, be facing Eastward, mumbling Nationalistic mumbo-jumbo; interspersed with their soul-pleasing, anti-semitistic gurgglings.

GIVE GAZ, indeed….

petofi
Guest

correction: anti-semitic

tappanch
Guest

Orban will nominate his reliable lawyer to be the new head of the Media [Censorship] Authority for 9 years.

http://index.hu/kultur/media/2013/08/14/karas_monika_lehet_az_nmhh_uj_elnoke/

Nicky
Guest
Good to read your comments,Wolfi. Regarding the car checks,I was reminded of something strange that happened a few years ago. My brother was visiting from Prague,and drove his Czech car,which was parked outside my house for a few days. After he left I was walking home with my 3 small children,returning from the shop,when I became vaguely aware of a car trailing me. Just as I was about to unlock my door,the car pulled up and out stepped a policeman. He wanted to know who was visiting from the Czech Republic. I answered a few simple questions,and that was that,and he drove off. I felt a bit uneasy about it,though,a bit like ‘Big Brother is watching you!’ – Eva,regarding the comments about the premature babies dying: I do think a full scale investigation is necessary when something like this happens,to find out the causes,and if medical negligence was at play. But these heavy handed tactics remind me of the case of Gereb Agnes,the home birthing midwife. As far as I know,she’s still under house arrest. Hungarian doctors need to look at their attitudes towards childbirth,and should follow the lead of countries like Holland or Germany where home birthing is not… Read more »
andy
Guest

Almost simultaneously to the Hungarrian police action a judge in NYCity ordered a halt to the “stop and frisk” actions routinely used by NY cops during the past 8 years.

Statistics showed that over 80% of the American action was taken in the case of coloured minority population and very rarely resulted in catching offenders.

(Relevant articles appeared in the New York Times on the above subject).

The similarity of the afore discussed police procedures within in the two countries was shocking.

gdfxx
Guest

andy :
Almost simultaneously to the Hungarrian police action a judge in NYCity ordered a halt to the “stop and frisk” actions routinely used by NY cops during the past 8 years.
Statistics showed that over 80% of the American action was taken in the case of coloured minority population and very rarely resulted in catching offenders.
(Relevant articles appeared in the New York Times on the above subject).
The similarity of the afore discussed police procedures within in the two countries was shocking.

The judge did not order a halt, it just ordered stronger monitoring. The stop and frisk was found to be constitutional by the US Supreme Court. After this practice was started, New York City became the US city with the lowest crime rate. And yes, members of the African-American and Hispanic community were overrepresented among those who were stopped and frisked, if you consider their proportion in the overall population in NYC. However, they were not overrepresented, if you consider their proportion among those who committed violent crimes.

Further, this practice was not initiated to impose Mayor Bloomberg’s dictatorial tendencies…

So, where is the shocking similarity?

szomszéd
Guest
Wolfi: These “rich Hungarians driving large SUVs with Slovak licence plates” are with the highest probability the rich Slovaks driving regularly along the Slovak-Hungarian boarders. And for those riches it is no problem to drive frequently to Héviz. Due to the relatively lower house prices in Hungary, many Slovaks bought houses there, mainly within the triangel Rajka – Mosonmagyarovár – Hegyeshalom, but also outside this area (also in neighbouring Austria). They usually have permanent address in Slovakia, they work there and every day return back to Hungary. I am not sure which licence plates should they have – Slovak or Hungarian? So far, it is considered having the Slovak documents is o.k. Which sense would it have to harass them with this agenda within the EU? I think it is important that they have all documents for driving abroad. BTW, I know a Hungarian from Rajka who works in Bratislava and drives every day to Bratislava and back – with the car with Hungarian plates and this is also o.k. I drive often to Rajka and Mosonmagyarovár and I was once also stopped by Hungarian police for control. They were polite, asked my documents, did the tour around my car… Read more »
Guest

Szomszéd,

these police inspections right now are surely extraordinary …

Regarding papers for cars:

I had to read up the official EU position, which is:

If you as a citizen of an EU state have a secondary residence (as I have in Hungary) you cannot (!) register a car there – you have to register it at your primary residence …

I was thinking about that because cars are cheaper here and insurance also …

Btw: The situation is similar inside Germany – if you have a summer house and a secondary residence somewhere, you cannot register a car there, even if it might be cheaper.

Of course I don’t know what the residences of these Slovaks/Hungarians are.

Any way what I meant to describe were recent cases of Hungarian businessmen (owners of shops, restaurants etc) living in Hévíz driving “Slovak” cars …

gdfxx
Guest
gdfxx : andy : Almost simultaneously to the Hungarrian police action a judge in NYCity ordered a halt to the “stop and frisk” actions routinely used by NY cops during the past 8 years. Statistics showed that over 80% of the American action was taken in the case of coloured minority population and very rarely resulted in catching offenders. (Relevant articles appeared in the New York Times on the above subject). The similarity of the afore discussed police procedures within in the two countries was shocking. The judge did not order a halt, it just ordered stronger monitoring. The stop and frisk was found to be constitutional by the US Supreme Court. After this practice was started, New York City became the US city with the lowest crime rate. And yes, members of the African-American and Hispanic community were overrepresented among those who were stopped and frisked, if you consider their proportion in the overall population in NYC. However, they were not overrepresented, if you consider their proportion among those who committed violent crimes. Further, this practice was not initiated to impose Mayor Bloomberg’s dictatorial tendencies… So, where is the shocking similarity? And I forgot an essential part: the NYPD… Read more »
Ron
Guest

This Dr. Gabor Csiba from the BAZ hospital is some character. Prisoners working in the yard of the Hospital, family members getting a tobacco shop. forcing employees to finish apparently uneatable food from the cafeteria.

http://www.eszakhirnok.com/component/taxonomy/Csiba%20G%C3%A1bor.html#axzz2bxmy2usa

oneill
Guest

Belarus has so many regulations and laws that it is impossible to be sure you are obeying them all. Hungary has so many laws and regulations you can never be sure that you are obeying them all.

At the moment, I would suggest there are 150-200 homeless camping overnight in the Varosliget. There are also about 30 campervans with French registration plates stopping over, on their way back from the “controversial” Ozora festival with folk smoking the kind of tobacco which is not (widely) on sale in the typical Nemzeti Dohany Bolt. Both groups are causing absolutely no problem but in theory representatives from both groups could find themselves locked up for 5, 10. 15 years *if* the cops decide to do the job the Orbanists have employed them to do.

Constantly you are looking over the shoulder to check the regime is not checking you.
99% of the time they are not due to laziness or sheer incompetence.
But just like in Belarus, the laws are there to sort out your *crimes* if for whatever reason the Fidesz mafia decides you need taking down.

googly
Guest
gdfxx : gdfxx : andy : Almost simultaneously to the Hungarrian police action a judge in NYCity ordered a halt to the “stop and frisk” actions routinely used by NY cops during the past 8 years. Statistics showed that over 80% of the American action was taken in the case of coloured minority population and very rarely resulted in catching offenders. (Relevant articles appeared in the New York Times on the above subject). The similarity of the afore discussed police procedures within in the two countries was shocking. The judge did not order a halt, it just ordered stronger monitoring. The stop and frisk was found to be constitutional by the US Supreme Court. After this practice was started, New York City became the US city with the lowest crime rate. And yes, members of the African-American and Hispanic community were overrepresented among those who were stopped and frisked, if you consider their proportion in the overall population in NYC. However, they were not overrepresented, if you consider their proportion among those who committed violent crimes. Further, this practice was not initiated to impose Mayor Bloomberg’s dictatorial tendencies… So, where is the shocking similarity? And I forgot an essential part:… Read more »
googly
Guest
szomszéd : Wolfi: These “rich Hungarians driving large SUVs with Slovak licence plates” are with the highest probability the rich Slovaks driving regularly along the Slovak-Hungarian boarders. And for those riches it is no problem to drive frequently to Héviz. Due to the relatively lower house prices in Hungary, many Slovaks bought houses there, mainly within the triangel Rajka – Mosonmagyarovár – Hegyeshalom, but also outside this area (also in neighbouring Austria). They usually have permanent address in Slovakia, they work there and every day return back to Hungary. I am not sure which licence plates should they have – Slovak or Hungarian? So far, it is considered having the Slovak documents is o.k. Which sense would it have to harass them with this agenda within the EU? I think it is important that they have all documents for driving abroad. BTW, I know a Hungarian from Rajka who works in Bratislava and drives every day to Bratislava and back – with the car with Hungarian plates and this is also o.k. I drive often to Rajka and Mosonmagyarovár and I was once also stopped by Hungarian police for control. They were polite, asked my documents, did the tour around… Read more »
Paul
Guest
We have the same ‘stop and search’ situation in the UK, especially in London. 90%+ it’s black and other minority people they stop, using the same ‘logic; as gdfxx. But the reality is that very few of those stopped are found to have anything criminal on them, so it only prevents a minute number of crimes, if any. But in the meantime the black and minority communities are turned against the police. And, although there may appear to be some logic in stopping black people because a large number of crimes are committed by black people, in fact this is the same ‘logic’ of classifying people by the group they belong to, rather than treating them as individuals, that racism is based on. From a human rights viewpoint, we are all innocent until proven guilty, whatever our colour, and whatever the colour of most people in jail. The police have no right whatsoever to stop and search us unless they have proof that we might be up to something – the sort of proof that would be required for a search warrant, for instance. Most fraud crime in the UK is committed by white people, I wonder how the majority… Read more »
Guest

Yes, Paul, this phenomenon is common to most of Europe – but sometimes people stand up to it and maybe it changes:

Just a few weeks ago we had a big stink in the local paper in the German university town where I live because a young black student stood up. He travels by train from his parents’ place to Tübingen and got checked every so often by the “train police” …

And one day he asked why they checked him and not the other 100 passengers and didn’t show them his German id – so they took him to the police station, thinking of course they had got an illegal immigrant …

And when he finally showed them his id and went to the authorities and the newspaper there was a big uproar – so maybe now the police will think twice before they check a “suspicious individuum” …

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