The greatly touted Hungarian terrorist story is a hoax

Last night Reuters reported from Budapest that the Hungarian anti-terrorist police had detained four people traveling toward Budapest with explosives in their car and later found “a bomb-making laboratory set up for a mass killing.” The source of the information was the director-general of TEK (Terrorelhárítási Központ), János Hajdu. In addition, Hajdu revealed that two other people had been arrested in a separate raid, in whose possession they found submachine guns, silencers, and ammunition. When asked whether the subjects were jihadist terrorists, he said “Let me reply to that in the next few days.” He also declined to disclose the suspects’ identities, nationalities or motives but indicated that the case had “an international dimension.” Reuters seemed to know that the “suspects had been formally placed under arrest.” In no time this Reuters report from Budapest was picked up in the major newspapers of the world. Fox News announced this development with a bright yellow sign behind the anchor reading “Alert!”

In Hungary, meanwhile, János Hajdu, the former bodyguard of Viktor Orbán, made the rounds at several television stations in addition to MTV’s M1 where he made his initial announcement. I watched him on ATV where he was a guest of Egyenes beszéd.

The news spread like wildfire. Since the initial announcement of TEK’s raids over the weekend hundreds of Hungarian media outlets painted lurid pictures of the possible dangers posed by these “bomb makers,” further disquieting an already jittery Hungarian public. Hajdu described a full-fledged laboratory in which the suspects were ready to manufacture bombs which they could either use themselves or make for others. There was talk of detonators, test tubes, disguised fire extinguishers filled with explosives capable of killing hundreds of people, and grenades of all sorts. He showed a picture of a contraption that was described as a starter mechanism for would-be assassins. The impression he tried to convey was that Hungary was in mortal danger. International terrorism had reached the country.

János Hajdu with his boss / Photo Népszava Péter Szalmás

János Hajdu with his boss / Photo Népszava / Péter Szalmás

There is only one problem with the story: not a word of it is true. There is no bomb factory, and there are no terrorist suspects. It is would be easy to conclude that members of TEK are staggeringly incompetent. The best example of their incompetence was the time they seized theater props arriving in Budapest for a film production, thinking they were real weapons. I wrote about that fiasco earlier. But this time it is almost certain that we cannot chalk up to incompetence what happened during this past weekend. Here we are dealing with the willful misleading not only of the public but even of the parliamentary committee on national security. The reason for the deceit? It is most likely a desire to help Viktor Orbán’s current propaganda campaign against the asylum seekers.

Currently the Hungarian government is in the midst of a ferocious anti-refugee campaign. Activists knock on doors gathering signatures to oppose the quota system that the European Union will most likely introduce to deal with the refugee crisis. It was only a few days ago that Viktor Orbán in an interview said that “of course, it’s not accepted, but the factual point is that all the terrorists are basically migrants… The question is when they migrated to the European Union.” The anti-refugee propaganda has been in full swing for months, and by now the great majority of Hungarians have been convinced that the world would come to an end if Hungary accepted even a single refugee. It looks as if it was TEK’s job to find a few terrorists in Hungary to heighten the fear that is already widespread.

So, let’s see what actually happened. There were two raids, both in or close to Budapest. The first took place on Saturday. It seems that TEK had been following two Hungarian men who, from the details Hajdu gave to Olga Kálmán of ATV, are “extremists” and who illegally had in their possession submachine guns, home-made silencers, and ammunition. I suspect that they are the ordinary neo-Nazi types who are unfortunately rather common in Hungarian far-right circles. The second raid took place on the highway, where they arrested four men. These are the ones suspected of terrorism. This is the case that, according to Hajdu, has “an international dimension.”

What is the truth? A young fellow who lives in Budapest is a World War II history buff who collects wartime memorabilia. This past weekend, with his father and two of his friends from Slovakia, he headed to some wooded areas around Veszprém with a metal detector to look for items like shells and old grenades. They packed the things they had found into the trunk of the car and headed home. Great was their surprise when they were surrounded by members of the Hungarian anti-terrorist group. TEK units, with their uniforms, masks, and heavy weaponry, are quite a frightening sight. A search of his parents’ apartment followed, where TEK grabbed everything that looked suspicious to them, including, for example, the above mentioned fire extinguisher. Naturally, the three boys and the father were arrested.

The case was so weak, however, that even the prosecutors asked for temporary custody only for Roland S., who is most likely the boy with such an interest in war memorabilia. This afternoon, however, the court ruled that none of the four should be detained, and in the press release the court stated that “there is nothing in the documents that would indicate that the suspect whose interest in World War II is no more than a hobby has any connection with other organized criminal groups or terrorist organizations…. In fact, everything indicates the lack of any such connection. There is no proof of any extremist views or any foreign connection with the exception that his two companions with a similar interest are from Upper Hungary [Slovakia].”

This morning János Hajdu and other high officials of TEK, who were asked to appear before the parliamentary committee on national security to brief the lawmakers on the background of the terrorist threat, lied. HVG learned that Hajdu talked about the Roland S. case as being of great importance. When the committee members left the conference room, they–including the opposition members–announced that TEK had done an excellent job. Hajdu never said that Roland S. was a collector of war memorabilia or that the so-called international connection was nothing more than two friends from Slovakia.

Try to imagine what would happen to János Hajdu if he pulled this trick at a hearing of one of the committees of the U.S. Congress. He would be charged with contempt of Congress. This is exactly what happened to Rita Lavelle, an EPA official, in 1983 when she was indicted for lying to Congress. She was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, five years probation thereafter, and a fine of $10,000.

But rest assured, nothing of the sort will happen in Hungary. I hope that the opposition will have the good sense to raise hell and that journalists will follow up on this disgraceful story.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Zorgas
Guest

It is a disgraceful story, but if the goal is to keep people on edge and worried about security, the damage has been done. The details don’t really matter. In fact, as you’ve noted, the details have been intentionally blurred so that, despite the subsequent reporting, people with be worried about the danger in their midst.

And what about the two who really were carrying weapons? The focus seems to have moved quickly away from them. It seems the Fidesz/Jobbik coalition government would rather not talk about the existing “militias” and the dangers of fomenting nationalist extremism.

Istvan
Guest

Just pathetic. Hungary stands little chance if IS ever decides to attack, but I am sure Orban has several panic rooms (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_room) set up for himself and his family so no need to worry the NATO forces will get there soon enough.

Member

I’m pretty sure their next target will be a group like this:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1507864316103431/

(“terrarist” in Hungarian is a person, whose hobby is keeping reptiles or insects in terrariums)

The Hungarian SWAT teams (TEK) are like this:
comment image

petofi
Guest

The Buffoon State–Meszaros and Orban must laugh their guts out.

Apt revenge for a 1000 years of insults and humiliation…

Guest

BBC has been quick to respond to the story, but while seeming to mock TEK’s actions, the article ends by saying the arrested had “unlicensed possession of equipment capable of making explosives”, which implies that perhaps there is cause for alarm in Hungary after all, with the implication that the arrests were therefore justified.

The BBC article does not make it clear why the authorities are still investigaitng bomb-making equipment. Was there such found, or wasn’t there? And if so, why does the BBC article not mention any far-right neo-Nazi connections

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34928535

While mocking TEK, at the same time the BBC article does nothing to alleviate fears of terrorism in Hungary, and in fact subtly perpetuates and supports the government-induced anti-immigrant hysteria

Bowen
Guest

@magyar2lips. The BBC are quoting Nick Thorpe. Who can always be counted on to subtly push the Fidesz agenda. I wonder what he gets in return.

Guest

Bowen, I have it on good authority that what Nick Thorpe gets in return is a trouble-free life in Hungary with his right-wing Hungarian wife and family, as the foreign correspondent darling of the Fidesz politicos

On a BBC payroll, he is free to disseminate watered-down versions of the Fidesz mob, and often out-and-out lies which pose as news from Hungary. There have been numerous complaints about him, but the BBC turns a blind eye and continues to trust their “man on the beat” in Hungary.

Bowen
Guest

@magyar2lips. It’s noticeable that on the rare occasions when there is a big story (internationally) in Hungary, like in 2006 or 2015, Thorpe is barely anywhere to be seen. During the Keleti and Roszke events this year, the BBC sent in very good and high profile journalists (Huw Edwards and Fergal Keane to name but two) to create reports, while Thorpe was given very minor bits of reporting to do.

Guest

Nick’s unprofessional and irresponsible “reporting” have done great damage to Hungary.

He has been quoted as saying that he strives “to present Hungary in as favourable light as possible ” to readers of his articles. By that, he of course means to present Hungary under Orbán and Fidesz, in a favourable light.

He has faithfully done that for several years, and is partly responsible for Hungary’s slide into a dictatorship under Orbán, with whom he has a psychophantic relationship.
Is that what a BBC reporter supposed to do?

I have posted this link before, but if you have not already seen this “Letter to the Wide World” from a Fidesz supporting Brussels correspondent, who mentions Nick as a hero of right-wing Hungarians, here it is:

http://atlatszo.blog.hu/2013/10/29/egyetek_szart_seggfejek_lovas_istvan_a_kulfoldi_tudositoknak

It says it all about the style of both Orbán and his nasty band of followers, and about Nick’s role in supporting the insupportable and insufferable.

Guest

It is my guess that the French and the Brits who have experienced the real thing several times are less frightened than the Hungarians who have only seen the spectre conjured up by Orban.

Guest

I think you are right, Jean P, which is why it is baffling why a British news site would end an article by seemingly supporting Orbán’s politicially motivated “spectre” of suspects secretly making bombs in the depths of the Hungarian countryside?

Nicky
Guest

Absolutely shameful behaviour! That response ‘Let me reply to that in a few days’ buys enough time to stoke more anti immigrant sentiment, and whip up fear and hysteria. Even though the facts have now been made public, the fear will linger, no doubt about that. I was surprised to read about this on Yahoo News yesterday (the Reuters article) yet minutes later didn’t hear any mention of it on the radio news here in Hungary. I am wondering if some news stations didn’t want to report on it, or had already reported on it? My Hungarian husband said he had heard nothing about it. Is it possible that this story wasn’t headline news, or that not every station reported on it, knowing it was all a storm in a teacup!? I certainly hope so!
Regarding the fear of terrorism: I’ve been amazed at how many people I know are terrified something will happen here in Hungary, since the attacks in France. I’ve heard all kinds of domesday predictions. I think they should be more scared of their politicians, though!

Guest

I totally agree, Nicky! There is something strangely aberrational about Hungarian mentality…cannot see the wood for the trees.

Guest

“I think they should be more scared of their politicians, though!”

Bingo.

BritinBudapest
Guest

Pure Monty Python. More seriously, I think this is horribly insulting to the memories of the people who have died at the hands of terrorists, especially most recently in Paris. Hungary may be making itself look foolish in its attempts to appear important enough to warrant an attack, but for people who genuinely live with the threat of terrorism and may know people killed by terrorists, I find the attitude of Orban unbelievably offensive.

Gizike
Guest

If it’s dreading or freaking out you can always count on Mazsihisz. Mazsihisz is now requesting the help of Orban in order to protect the jews against Islamic terror.

Translation: Mazsihisz, the more liberal (even secular) jewish organization was coopted by Orban (who successfully coopted the orthodox jews already) so that now it happily plays the role of the unterman (straight man) to Orban’s leading character.

You may relax, Orban will protect the jews, he is totally against Islamic terrorists.

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/11/26/annyira_retteg_a_mazsihisz_hogy_orbantol_ker_segitseget/

Zorgas
Guest

@Gizike, and also Eva.. Rather than “freaking out,” Mazsihisz and EMIH are both saying that they plan to hold public Hanukkah celebrations and that additional security is merited, given the increased security concerns. Even the US State Department has warned American citizens to “avoid large crowds or crowded places.”

Index is quoting from Magyar Idok (http://magyaridok.hu/belfold/179650-179650/), and while anything in that Fidesz propaganda rag should be taken with plenty of salt, reading between the lines at the end of the article, it appears that there was discussion about postponing the Hanukkah celebrations, but that these proposals have been dismissed.

A different newspaper might have written a story about Hungary citizens demanding that the bumbling Hungarian state, with its Keystone Cops (aka TEK) and fear-mongering, hate-inciting leader, create a stable and secure environment for public holiday celebrations. Instead, as would expected from Magyar Idok, it created a narrative of the weak and fearful Jews turning to the stalwart leader for protection from Muslim terrorists.

And, sadly, that is the narrative that these comments are also supporting.

Member

There are legitimate and justified questions to be asked about Heisler. Sometimes he seems to have integrity and a backbone and sometimes he seems to be a petty opportunist — uncharitably put, a micro-Orban. Who knows the truth?

Zorgas
Guest

He walks a fine line. It’s hard to really call Mazsihisz a representative organization. It is funded by the state and by some charitable donations. It needs to give the appearance of being larger than it is and more representative than it is, both for funding reasons and to give some appearance of a unified voice to Hungary’s Jews. Many were amazed that he had Mazsihisz take a stance so publicly in opposition to the government throughout 2014. But, with EMIH waiting in the wings to take a larger portion of the Mazsihisz pie, with Hungary’s secular Jews wondering what organization represents them and with the Government of Israel claiming to represent Jews, even if they are not Israelis, I’m willing to show Andras Heisler a little more charity as Mazsihisz tries to redefine itself.

Member

Pannonian Principles

Let’s see how Heisler deports himself when he once again lends himself to Orban’s orchestrated “affinity fraud” in Canada — a regime-subsidized travelling roadshow and charm campaign in which the likes of Heisler (and much, much worse) are recruited to give Hungary the phoney image, internationally, of being a democratic, law-abiding and tolerant country. I refer you again to “Is Hungary taking Canada’s Jews for a ride?” (by András Göllner) in Hungarian Free Press… And let the Hungarian Jewish Community support truth and justice rather than “walking a fine line” and fretting about their “portion of the Mazsihisz pie.” It might set a good example to the rest of the country, for a change. Integrity is running mighty short in the Carpathian Basement…

If Heisler speaks the bitter truth in Canada, I am more than ready to apologize, sincerely and gratefully, for my uncharitableness. But not if he remains mum or vague on Orban’s multitude of sins. (I would even be heartened if he just admitted that he is singing from his state-assigned script in order to prevent Orban from robbing poor, elderly and ailing Jews of their meagre state benefits.)

Johnny
Guest

BREAKING NEWS:

Brussels has attacked Hungary. Hungary is at war.

By the Paks 2 is alive and well, thank you very much.

http://444.hu/2015/11/26/lazar-szerint-brusszel-megtamadta-magyarorszagot

spectator
Guest

@BritinBudapest
I think this is horribly insulting even to the memories of Monty Python!

For the record: they were witty and funny, while this miserable bunch of household variety of morons nothing but!

Guest

After eating my turkey and giving ‘thanks’ today I read this. Well one benefit if we can call it is that if outright lying continually goes on like this one has to believe that there is a ‘shelf-life’ to all that. Eventually the rot has to catch up with the hoax hustlers.

spectator
Guest

Talking about terrorists in Hungary:
Is anybody in the know regarding those terrorists appeared at the Röszke riots with bullhorn in their hand, and – God forbid – talked to the crowd in order to subdue their sentiments?
According to my best knowledge they were wanted for terrorism, even internationally, – if someone decide to trust in the Hungarian authorities, even up to the level of a press release.

Actually I’m not such person, so it is fully possible that my ignorance hindered me from the one and only truth…

Is there anybody out there..?
(No, not because of Pink Floyd, but still…)

wpDiscuz