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Hungary says 'does not plan' to restore death penalty

The Hungarian government says it has no plans to reintroduce the death penalty after angry criticism from EU leaders. Prime Minister Viktor Orban raised the issue after the murder of a shop assistant in Kaposvar.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban "does not plan to introduce the death penalty," his chief of staff Janos Lazar said Thursday.

Lawmakers from Orban's Fidesz party had on Wednesday said a debate on the reintroduction of capital punishment was worth considering, sparking an angry response from EU leaders.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Orban "should immediately make clear that this is not his intention." If it were his intention, "it would be a fight," Juncker said, pointing out that EU protocols do not allow the death penalty to be restored anywhere in the bloc.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said that the legislature's civil liberties committee would be convened urgently, also noting that the EU's charter of fundamental rights prohibits the death penalty.

Later on Thursday, Orban rang Schulz to say Hungary had no plans to restore the death penalty, only to have "a debate about it," Lazar said.

Hungary will "keep to EU laws," he added.

Orban had said the death penalty needed to be kept on the agenda in Hungary and the 28-nation EU, following the murder of a young female shop assistant in the southern city of Kaposvar.

Hungary abolished the death penalty in 1990, although Fidesz's main challenger, the far-right Jobbik party, has long advocated for it to be reintroduced.

Orban's comments on the death penalty followed remarks made last week when he described the EU stand on immigration as "stupid" and said "immigration should be stopped," shortly after hundreds of migrants seeking to get to Europe had died in the Mediterranean.

ng,nm/jil (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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