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Hungarians Riot Over Leaked Tape

September 19, 2006|From the Associated Press

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Protesters clashed with police and stormed state television headquarters early today, responding with violence to a leaked recording that caught Hungary's prime minister admitting that the government "lied morning, evening and night" to win April elections.

Rescue services said that at least 50 people were injured as police fired tear gas and water cannons at rock-throwing protesters who have demanded that Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's government resign. He said he had no plans to do so.

The violence followed a mainly peaceful demonstration that began a day earlier outside parliament, after a recording made in May was leaked to local media. On Monday night, several hundred protesters broke away from a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 by the state news service MTI and marched to the nearby headquarters of state television, demanding to deliver a statement in a live broadcast.

As most of the demonstrators watched, a few dozen broke through police lines and into the TV facility's headquarters.

Police tried to disperse them with water cannons, but the truck was quickly disabled by the rioters, some of whom escorted the police officers operating the vehicle to safety. Several cars near the TV facility were set on fire and their flames scorched the building.

The rioters appeared to control some areas on the ground floor of the block-square television building. Authorities said they were ordering several thousand police reinforcements to the capital.

The tape was made at a closed-door meeting in late May, weeks after Gyurcsany's government became the first in post-communist Hungary to win reelection. It seemed to confirm the center-right opposition's accusations -- that Hungary's budget was near collapse and that Gyurcsany and his ministers were concealing the truth to secure victory.

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