Suspects apprehended by counter-terrorism force TEK have no affiliation with Islamic extremist groups, Zsolt Molnár, head of parliament’s national security committee, has said.
In November TEK said it apprehended six people, members of gangs in possession of automatic weapons, explosives and ammunition. It also confirmed increased security provided to protected persons until the end of the current series of counter-terrorism operations.
Speaking after a national security committee (NSC) meeting held behind closed doors, Molnár said TEK chief János Hajdú gave committee members a detailed account of the operation. Noting that the details were confidential, Molnár confirmed that the suspects were not part of a cell of Islamic State militants. The gang members were extremists “with troubling ideologies”, he said.
Bernadett Szél of LMP, Ádám Mirkóczki of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, and Szilárd Németh, the committee’s vice-chairman for Fidesz, all expressed thanks for TEK’s operation and said the counter-terrorism unit had prevented “a serious crime”. Mirkóczki said the operation was not a mere “PR stunt” by TEK nor had media reports about it been exaggerated.
Committee members were also briefed on Hungary and Europe’s security situation by Interior Ministry staff and representatives of the secret services. MPs said they discussed the implications of the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey as well as the Paris attacks.
On the shooting down of the warplane, Szél said Hungary should assist in clearing up the incident because chaos only favours the terrorists. She said the Paris attacks were proof of the emergence of “a new form of terrorism”, and that stopping it will require intelligence agencies to co-operate more efficiently.
Németh said the briefing had made it clear that illegal migration and terrorism “go hand in hand”. He said it was not just the current wave of migrants but earlier waves as well that are responsible for terrorism, arguing that there were second- and third-generation immigrants among the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks. Németh said the attacks could have been prevented if the European Union and certain EU leaders had managed migration “on a different level”.
He noted that the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks had been on the radar of French intelligence services. The intelligence services were doing their job as they were supposed to but “there are some irresponsible politicians who don’t listen to them”. The Hungarian government on the other hand listened to such briefings.
Németh said it has become clear that the government made the right choice when it launched a national consultation on the link between migration and terrorism, and then instilled the measures necessary to protect the country.
Molnár said the threat of terrorism has not risen either in Budapest or in Hungary in general, adding however that no European country is completely safe because there is a constant race to foil potential terror plots. He said the security situation justifies his party’s call for changes to the penal code to introduce sanctions for such activities as the promotion of terrorism, joining terrorist groups or recruiting members for them.
The day after the meeting of the NSC, Tibor Ibolya, the chief prosecutor, revealed that some of the suspects apprehended and found to possess automatic weapons, explosives and ammunition, had criminal records. Ibolya said the two people who had automatic weapons in their vehicle had been arrested before for illegal possession of firearms. One of the two men had been arrested in May this year for attempting to smuggle ammunition into the country, and the other one was released from prison last November after serving seven and a half years for the unlawful use of a weapon.
According to Interior Ministry state secretary László Tasnádi, the two men – who are extremists belonging to a loosely organised group that calls itself an “army” – planned to “execute” a government member.
The four people who were apprehended travelling in a car towards Budapest were found in possession of Second World War grenades, “egg grenades”, ammunition and other explosives. Of the two Slovak and two Hungarian nationals, the prosecutor only intended to place one in pre-trial detention because TEK had found even more ammunition, grenades, chemicals and fuses in his home and concealed in his clothing.
Budapest Regional Court, however, rejected the prosecutor’s motion to detain the suspect. The prosecutor said it has additional information on the suspect that would warrant his pre-trial detention, but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation. The prosecutor said it has appealed the court’s decision to release the suspect.
The court told state news agency MTI that there is no evidence to suggest the suspect has any connection to criminal or terrorist organisations, nor is there any evidence to suggest the case can be linked to any other ongoing investigation. The court said there was no information to indicate that any of the suspects held extremist views or had connections abroad. The suspect whom the prosecutor wanted to detain did not have a criminal record.
The leftist opposition Democratic Coalition said it would file a complaint against TEK, saying that the organisation deliberately misled the public by implying that it had apprehended Islamic extremists. Lawmaker Agnes Vadai said Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s “private army had failed”, and TEK chief Hajdú had embarrassed Hungarian police.