WRAP-UP - Four injured in N Hungary radical-Roma clash, 7 arrested

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 27th of April 2011   Source: MTI

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Police have detained seven people by Wednesday afternoon in connection with a clash between radical nationalists and the local Roma population of Gyongyospata, in north Hungary.


Four people were injured, one seriously, when a group of radical nationalists clashed with local Roma late on Tuesday.


Police said CCTV footage suggests the fight was sparked off by a drunken man urinating near a street inhabited by the Roma and in response a group of about 50 equipped with hand tools got into a fight with four men. One of the injured said he was a member of a far right group, Balint Soltesz, spokesman for the local county police, said.


Authorities reinforced police presence in the town.


Tensions have been riding high since the town gave site to a paramilitary training camp organised near the Roma neighbourhood over the Easter holidays. Nearly 300 Roma women and children were helped to leave town for the duration of the training who have since then returned. Some 100 Roma were again seen leaving the town on Wednesday, MTI's on-site correspondent said.


Peter Szijjarto, the prime minister's spokesman, said that the government would draft a decree to respond to a new type of crime which has surfaced in the country where people in uniforms organised unauthorised patrols or other threatening actions. He said the decree would move to give stricter punishments for these types of offences.


Laszlo Horvath, the government's commissioner for Heves County, visiting Gyongyospata, told MTI that the situation had become "uncontrollable" and called for an end to "political disaster tourism". He added that "provocative acts must stop, whichever side they come from."


The mayor of Gyongyospata Mrs Ferenc Matalik said that politics and the media have distorted the picture and presented the town and the situation in a negative light, unjustly portraying Gyongyospata abroad as a racist community.


Attila Mesterhazy, leader of the main opposition Socialists have prepared a draft of measures aimed to ease the tension between Roma communities and the rest of the population and pledged to submit the bill to parliament soon. He said it contained proposals for returning earlier frozen funds to the Interior Ministry and withdrawing cuts to police budgets, as well as helping Roma integration and reversing changes in public work schemes.


Former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany offered one million forints (EUR 3,800) for the protection of the Roma community in Gyongyospata.


The minority ombudsman Erno Kallai demanded a meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban to discuss the situation. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) called for immediate measures to reduce the tension in the town and Amnesty International (AI) called on the government to "prevent racially-motivated violence and intimidation in the country."


The US Embassy said in a statement that it appreciates the Hungarian government's position in connection with events in Gyongyospata and its rejection of intimidation of minority groups and violence targeting them. The embassy declined to comment on press reports that 450 Roma were seeking asylum in the United States.


Senior lawmaker of radical nationalist party Jobbik, Janos Volner, told a news conference that the events of Tuesday evening "prove that a crisis in public safety had emerged in Hungary." Green party Politics Can Be Different (LMP) blamed the ruling Fidesz and radical nationalist Jobbik parties for aggravating the situation.


Radical groups have staged demonstrations and organised patrols in several villages in Hungary's poor and unemployment-hit northern and north-eastern regions over the past few weeks, saying that it was their duty to "restore public order" in areas with a high crime rate.


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