Two Gypsies, a man and his four-year-old son, are dead. They were victims of fatal gunshot wounds received while fleeing their house that had been torched.
They lived in Tatárszentgyörgy (Pest County), a village with a population of about 1,800. Because there are no ethnic statistics I don't know how many of these people are Roma. I assume a fair number because this is not the first time that I encountered Tatárszentgyörgy in the Hungarian media. In December 2007 the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda), formed a few months earlier, decided to have a demonstration in Tatárszentgyörgy against "the existing Gypsy terror." The march of the guardists in military formation was designed to put the fear of God into the local Gypsy population. József Tibor Bíber, then vice chairman of Jobbik, the party of the far right, made a rather threatening speech, reminding people of the horrible incident at Olaszliszka a year before where a Gypsy mob attacked and killed the driver of a car in front of his two daughters. The precipitating cause: a young Gypsy girl ran from her house into the road; the car struck her. Although the girl sustained no serious injuries, the enraged relatives killed the driver. (Just to give you an idea of how slow Hungarian justice is, the case hasn't been decided yet.)
But let's get back to Tatárszentgyörgy. The family had a good reputation in the village. They built a new house with a modern kitchen and bathroom. The young man was a musician, and the family photos show a good-looking family sitting in a well-appointed living room.
So what happened? As far as I can piece things together, a fire broke out in the house around one o'clock in the morning on February 23. The father phoned the fire department, then set about to get his family out of the house. He managed to save his wife and two of the older children, but as he was running out of the house with the youngest boy in his arms both were fatally shot. The father's family who lived next door immediately called the police and an ambulance. The police arrived about half an hour later and the ambulance sometime after that. By that time, both father and son were dead. Two of the older children, a boy and a girl, were injured, one of them fairly seriously. The ambulance took them and their mother, in shock, to a Budapest children's hospital.
The firefighters and the police didn't seem to be concerned. The firefighters perfunctorily announced that the fire was caused by faulty wiring. Although the neighbors apparently kept telling the police that they heard shots, the police refused to consider the possibility of either arson or murder. Eventually the doctor from nearby Örkény arrived to ascertain the cause of death. Two versions, one earlier and another later, circulate. According to the first, the family doctor didn't notice the gunshot wounds in father and son and announced that they had died of smoke inhalation. The second version came later, in the afternoon, from the head of the medical establishment where the doctor worked. According to him, the doctor noticed the bullet wounds and appropriately reported it. I'm afraid I don't quite believe the head of the practice. Because if the doctor actually noticed the bullet wounds, then how it was possible that the police didn't handle the incident as a possible crime? Because they didn't. For example, they didn't cordon off the area, they didn't check the grounds and thus they didn't notice the blood-stained snow near the house.
The local police suddenly changed their tune when the neighbors got in touch with some of the nationally known Roma leaders–Viktória Mohácsi, SZDSZ member of the European Parliament, and Orbán Kolompár, president of the National Gypsy Association (OCÖ)–who in turn phoned József Bencze, head of the country's police force. By the afternoon, in what can only be viewed as a pathetic parody of all the CSI TV programs, they had roped off the crime scene, discovered the blood stains, acknowledged the empty shell casings they had received from the neighbors, and admitted that close to the window of the room where the fire started there was a broken bottle. Bencze immediately ordered an investigation. But the odds of solving this case are slim. After all, just in the last year sixteen or seventeen very similar incidents have occurred: Molotov cocktail, tail end of the village, close to a forest, bullets from a shotgun and already there were a couple of victims who died under very similar circumstances. As of now not one case has been solved.
But by now everybody has moved into high gear. A group of researchers of the Roma question wrote to László Sólyom that he should say something about the dangerous situation that has developed in the country. We don't know whether he will make any public statement–until now he certainly hasn't although there was plenty reason to do so–but he called in the police chief and the minister in charge of the police for consultation. I assume that meant that he kept asking why the police cannot keep order in the country. The ombudsman for minorities, Ernő Kállai, himself of Roma origin, asked to be heard in parliament. He made a speech in which he asked for a "peace plan" between Romas and non-Romas. Apparently only about 25 members were interested in what he had to say. While Gypsy politicians on the left accuse Fidesz and the right of inflaming passions, Fidesz Roma leaders claim that there is only one problem: there is no order in the country. A stronger police force is the answer.
Meanwhile, a committee of the European Council dealing with racism and intolerance sent a report to the Hungarian government in which they expressed their disapproval of Hungary's legal system that gives too much leeway to hate speech. I don't know what President Sólyom will do now because time and time again he has defended a broad interpretation of free speech. This would be the second time that Sólyom's and thus the Constitutional Court's opinions don't meet the approval of the European Union. Knowing Sólyom and the Hungarian Constitutional Court nothing will change. Meanwhile the attacks on Gypsies can merrily continue. And I guess the use of Molotov cocktails and killings. But where will that lead?