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Roma men convicted of hate crime

July 7th, 2012

A left-wing commentator finds the court’s verdict proof of anti-Roma discrimination in the judiciary, while a prominent right wing columnist dismisses human right activists’ concern as another vicious attack against ethnic Hungarians. The ruling is under appeal.

On July 5th eleven people were sentenced to three to four year in prison for hate crime. The two victims of the attack entered a neighbourhood in Miskolc in a car at night, where the defendants beat them up, one of them shouting „Death to Hungarians!”. They also carried a knife with the same inscription. The incident happened in the spring of 2009, a few weeks after a Roma child and his father were killed in a series of targeted attacks on randomly selected Roma families, where the perpetrators used a gun with the intention to kill. (Their trial is ongoing.) The statute prescribing harsher punishment for hate-crimes was passed in 2008 by the previous government, after several attempts by left-wing governments to ban hate speech had been rebuffed by the constitutional court.

In Népszabadság, Dóra Ónody-Molnár calls the verdict a proof of anti-Gypsy sentiment in the judiciary. She describes the incident as a case of self-defence, since the victims were demonstratively driving round and round the Gypsy area that night with a container full of petrol on board. It all happened a few days after the murder of a boy of five, at a time when the Roma did not think the police could or would defend them. Football fans regularly beat up other fans shouting racist slogans, yet so far no hate crime charge had been proposed by prosecutors, she complains. Ónody Molnár points out that the law was devised to protect the minorities, not the 95 per cent majority.

In Magyar Hírlap Zsolt Bayer offers his interpretation of such concerns, stating that human rights activist have launched yet another attack against ethnic Hungarians. The arguments according to which hate crimes cannot be committed against a minority are absurd, he says.  He cites Elie Wiesel’s 1963 sentence on the hatred all Jewish men should bear against Germans and claims that the sentence is „back in circulation”; this time with the Hungarians as the targets.  „This is a terrifying statement,” he says, which cannot be explained by the (Gypsy) Holocaust. If shouting ‘death to Hungarians’ is not hate speech then nothing remains but „intolerable” and stupid human rights watchers and charges of anti-Semitism, such as the attack against distinguished historian Ignác Romsics by another historian, or a Socialist MP’s  comparison of the  government’s attempt to reign in disability benefit fraud to Mengele’s practice.  (Dozens of historians have taken Romsics’s defence against the charges, while the Socialist MP has apologised for the exaggeration).

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