Népszabadság published a list of crimes committed against Gypsies in the last year or so. They mentioned 12 incidents but according to Viktória Mohácsi, Roma activist and SZDSZ member of the European parliament, the number is higher–16 or 17. In defense of the paper, it was not trying to come up with a definitive number; rather, it was summarizing those cases the paper had previously reported on. And I will summarize even more briefly.
The first incident occurred on January 22, 2008, in Szigetvár when five punks from Barcs attacked a Gypsy woman and her daughter late in the evening in the center of town. I wrote about the court's decision in this case: it was not a hate crime, it was not racially motivated. After all, said the judge, these fellows were not from Szigetvár and therefore they couldn't have known that this particular area was frequented by Gypsies. And second, it was dark so how could they tell that the mother and daughter were Gypsies? On March 1 in Tiszaroff someone set fire to the house of a local Gypsy leader and scribbled ugly epithets on the wall of his house. This case was never solved. On March 15 in Tapolca two 17-year-olds out of the blue beat a 32-year-old Roma man. He was seriously hurt and had a long hospital stay. On June 3 in Pátka Molotov cocktails were thrown into three houses. No one was injured but in the room where the children were asleep fire broke out. This time the police managed to find the perpetrators: the civilians who are helping the police keep order in the village! They are in custody but have not yet been brought to trial. On June 15 in Fényeslitke after a loud verbal exchange in a pub a 40-year-old local killed a 14-year-old Roma boy and seriously wonded his 16-year-old companion. On July 21 in Galgagyörk shortly after midnight someone fired through the windows of three houses owned by Gypsies. Luckily no one was hurt. The perpetrator remains at large. On August 8 in Pirics someone threw Molotov cocktails into two houses inhabited by Gypsies and wounded a woman who tried to flee. On August 19 in Székesfehérvár a bunch of youngsters hurled stones through the windows of an apartment house inhabited primarily by Gypsies. A 12-year-old girl was seriously wounded. On September 5 In Nyíradony-Tamásipuszta shots were fired at a house owned by Gypsies. Luckily, no one was hurt. On November 3 in Nagycsécs unknown assailants threw Molotov cocktails into two houses facing each other. When the inhabitants tried to escape two were shot dead. On November 18 in Pécs a grenade was thrown into a Gypsy family's house. The parents died but three of their children miraculously survived. On December 15 in the Alsózsolca Gypsy ghetto a 19-year-old man, cutting wood in the yard, was seriously injured when someone fired two shots at him.
With the exception of the Szigetvár and Pátka cases not one assailant has been apprehended to date. In the Nagycsécs case which, by the way, shows a remarkable similarity to the one in Tatárszentgyörgy the police offered a 10 million forint reward to anyone who can lead the police to the suspect. No luck.
In the face of the escalating crimes against Gypsies, many Hungarians don't understand why László Sólyom, president of the republic and self-styled moralist, has been silent on this issue. Last November, after the Nagycsécs arson and murder, the Association for Human Rights (Társaság a Szabadságjogokért) wrote a private letter to Sólyom and asked him to make a statement. President Sólyom never answered. They waited and waited until February 16, that is before the Tatárszentgyörgy murders, when together with several other groups concerned with minorities they wrote another letter to Sólyom. Once again they got no answer. Instead the president issued an essentially meaningless communiqué yesterday in which he expressed his hope that the police would discover the "motive" behind the murders soon. It is becoming clear that Sólyom is not willing to stick his neck out.
As we all know, Sólyom is no milquetoast. He can be tough, some might say irrationally stubborn, on issues that are important to him. For example, the U.S. practice of fingerprinting foreigners entering the country. Shortly after becoming president, he threw all diplomatic niceties to the wind and announced that he would not visit the United States as long as the country insisted on fingerprinting its foreign visitors. Or the case of the wild roses on the southern slopes of the Mecsek Mountains about the same time. He voiced his strong opposition to a radar installation nearby. NATO requirement or not, to this day there is no radar tower built in the Mecsek Mountains. He had no problem expressing his moral outrage after Őszöd when, even as the MTV building was under siege, he pretty well demanded Ferenc Gyurcsány's resignation. Or just today Sólyom traveled to Dunapataj where he gave a speech in the memory of the victims of communism. Perhaps HírTV, a right-wing television station, is correct in assuming that Sólyom doesn't want to make a statement because "the liberal legal defense organizations are expecting a racist statement" from the president. Racist from HírTV means: "in defense of the Gypsies." HírTV expressed its disapproval of Sólyom's silence after the Veszprém murder of handball star Marian Cozma by Romas belonging to the underworld.
My feeling is that Sólyom will continue to remain silent on the issue of hate crimes against Gypsies. As things now stand Fidesz is the odds-on favorite to win the elections next year, and I'm sure that László Sólyom would dearly love to have his five-year term extended. If his fate is in Viktor Orbán's hands, why side with the liberals? The best thing is to be quiet.