May 20, 2007 / 1:44 PM / 13 years ago

REFILE-Hungary justice minister resigns over police crime

(Repeats, fixing date in dateline)

By Sandor Peto

BUDAPEST, May 20 (Reuters) - Hungarian justice and police minister Jozsef Petretei resigned on Sunday, a day after Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany sacked the country’s top policemen after officers were accused of crimes including rape and theft.

Gyurcsany, quoted by the national news agency MTI, said that he accepted Petretei’s resignation as of May 31.

"The recent events, regardless of the legal outcome, first prompted a political debate which has become a wider social debate because they have dented the confidence in the police," he said.

Petretei had previously said he not would quit over a spate of crimes allegedly committed by police officers.

But on Saturday Gyurcsany announced the dismissal of national police chief Laszlo Bene and Budapest police captain Peter Gergenyi and on Sunday he said he had also sacked Jozsef Dobozi, the head of the riot police Rebisz.

A Budapest court ruled on Saturday that five policemen be detained while allegations by a young woman of rape by police were investigated.

This is the first step under Hungarian law to formal charges and the case has been widely reported in Hungarian media. The woman said she was raped after being stopped for a traffic violation in central Budapest.

Earlier this month, a police officer was charged after stealing $2,500 from a bank in Budapest during a robbery in which armed police killed the robber.

At least 40 policemen have been charged with or sentenced for crimes this year, mainly in corruption cases or for violence, MTI said.

The main opposition party Fidesz said the crimes were a direct consequence of police violence during anti-government demonstrations and riots last year going unpunished and said the justice and police minister should be sacked.

Hundreds were injured in the riots triggered by Gyurcsany’s admission on a leaked tape that he had lied to voters about the parlous state of the economy before elections held a year ago.

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