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Anti-gay violence mars Hungarian parade

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian riot police used water cannon and tear gas on Saturday to stop far-right extremists from throwing petrol bombs and breaking up the annual gay parade in the capital Budapest.

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Hundreds of far-right demonstrators threw petrol bombs and stones at the police as the police tried to separate them from the participants of the “Gay Pride” march. They also threw eggs and firecrackers at people in the parade.

Riot police detained 45 people, police spokeswoman Eva Tafferner said.

Ambulance workers and police said at least eight people were wounded in the clashes, including two policemen.

The anti-gay demonstrators attacked a police car carrying Socialist European Parliament member and human rights activist Katalin Levai. They slammed a stone through the window of the police car but she was not hurt.

“This is outrageous and shameful that some 20 years after the change of regime, this is what we have ... such intolerance,” Levai told Reuters.

“This (violence) is sad,” said 32-year-old book editor Istvan Ruzsacz, who took part in the parade.

“Those people simply don’t accept that gays exist and use this as an opportunity to advertise themselves.”

A leading liberal politician Gabor Horn was also attacked according to local news agency Index.

Although homosexuality was legalized in eastern Europe after the collapse of communism, same-sex couples rarely display their affection publicly and gay parades have sparked scorn and violence in several other countries in the region.

A week ago, about 60 far-right extremists were arrested in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, after they tried to break up the country’s first gay parade.

Participants in a parade in the Czech city of Brno were also attacked by anti-gay activists last week.

Hungary passed a law last year which will legalize registered partnerships of same-sex couples from 2009. Hungarian gay groups have argued they should be allowed to adopt children.

Last year, when participants of the gay parade were pelted with eggs in Budapest, rights group Amnesty International criticized Hungary for what it said was a failure of police to protect the peaceful march.

Editing by Elizabeth Piper