July 4, 2009 / 8:28 PM / 11 years ago

Hungary police disperse far-right protest

BUDAPEST, July 4 (Reuters) - Hungarian police used teargas to disperse a protest by a banned far-right group in the centre of Budapest on Saturday and detained close to 200 people, police and witnesses said.

National news agency MTI said police also detained the chairman of the far-right Jobbik party, Gabor Vona. Local website Index said he was detained as part of the protests. Police would not confirm the reports.

A court ruled on Thursday the Hungarian Guard, backed by Jobbik which won 3 seats in European elections last month, must be dissolved because its marches have fuelled ethnic tensions and led to a disruption of public order.

The Guard has rejected the court ruling and said members would continue their activities.

A police spokeswoman said Saturday’s demonstration of about 200 people was held without permission and cited Thursday’s court ruling to say guard members could not wear their black uniforms in a public place.

"So far today police have detained about 110 people (in Budapest), of whom around 100 were detained from the demonstration," police spokeswoman Eva Tafferner told Reuters.

She said about 30 people were treated for light injuries.

A police statement said later at 1945 GMT that the number of detained rose to 184.

A Reuters photographer said police removed protesters one by one from a central square and used tear gas against some demonstrators.

Politicians, human rights activists and Roma rights activists have criticised the Guard for staging intimidating marches nationwide to protest against the spread of petty crime it says is mostly committed by Roma. Critics say its black uniform and insignia are reminiscent of the Nazi era.

Hungary has one of the largest Roma communities in eastern Europe, accounting for 5-7 percent of its 10 million population.

Based on recent polls, Jobbik ("For a Better Hungary") would get seats in the Hungarian parliament if elections were held now. Elections are due next year. (Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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