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35 held in anti-government protests in Hungary

Police in riot gear use tear gas as thousands rally in Budapest against the government of Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.

March 16, 2009|Associated Press

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY — Several thousand people held anti-government protests in the Hungarian capital during a national holiday Sunday, and police detained 35 people.

Dressed in riot gear, the police chased some of the protesters through the streets of Budapest and prevented them from reaching the parliament building, where violent protests had taken place in 2006.

At one point, tear gas was used to drive back a small group of demonstrators that tried to attack police lines near St. Stephen's Basilica. But law enforcement officials denied claims by Krisztina Morvai, a right-wing politician taking part in the protests, that she was beaten by police.

The detainees included Gyorgy Budahazy and Laszlo Toroczkai, leaders of right-wing radical groups, said Budapest police spokeswoman Eva Tafferner. The radicals have been holding sometimes violent protests for years against Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, who came to power in 2004. But Hungary's current economic crisis has intensified anti-government sentiment.

Also Sunday, another radical group, the Hungarian Guard, swore in 600 new members at Budapest's Heroes Square. A court disbanded the group last year, but the Guard is appealing the ruling.

Hungary has been among the countries in Eastern Europe hardest hit by the global economic crisis, and it received a $25-billion bailout led by the International Monetary Fund late last year. Hungary's economy is expected to shrink by at least 4% in 2009.

Sunday's national holiday commemorates the unsuccessful 1848 revolution against the Habsburgs.

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