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Council of Europe decries political hate speech

BUDAPEST (JTA) — The Council of Europe called on the major Hungarian political parties to keep racist hate speech out of an upcoming election campaign.

Responding to an appeal by the Jewish community, the call by the 47-member council was made last Friday following a fact-finding mission to Hungary led by Thomas Hammarberg, the council’s human rights commissioner. The next parliamentary elections are due within months.

The Wiesenthal Center, a consultant to the council, asked for an inquiry this fall following several provocative anti-Semitic demonstrations staged by the resurgent Hungarian neo-Nazi movement.

Hammarberg held talks in Budapest last week with Peter Feldmajer, president of the Association of Hungarian Jewish Religious Communities, as well as Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai and several government officials.

The commissioner expressed concern over manifestations of increasing racism and intolerance in Hungary targeting Jews and other minorities, and the lack of appropriate condemnation and effective counter measures by the authorities. He called on leaders of the major political parties to disassociate themselves from hate speech uttered by their followers.

Feldmajer shared his concern with Hammarberg during the meeting, in which they discussed the proliferation of hate speech in Hungarian political discourse.

Meanwhile, hundreds of uniformed members of the banned extremist Hungarian Guard held demonstrations at a Roma settlement, the scene recently of a fatal race riot. Several demonstration leaders called for the re-establishment of the notorious Hungarian Gendarmerie, the main instrument used by the Nazis during World War II for the transport of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz.

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