The news broke yesterday around noon. The police finally found the alleged culprits they had been looking for for over a year–the suspects in the attacks on Gypsies that resulted in the deaths of six people, including a five-year-old boy. The relief was palpable. Not only the Roma population but the country as a whole breathed a sigh of relief. Among other things, these crimes were tarnishing Hungary's reputation. I guess the happiest man must have been József Bencze, the police chief. There was tremendous pressure on him and on the Hungarian police in general to solve the case. I personally started to be annoyed with representatives of the Hungarian media when they kept pressuring spokesmen of the police force. In their questions there was always the implied accusation that the police were at best plodding, at worst useless.
The police first put together a team of one hundred detectives to investigate the case. A few months later they added another twenty men. Eventually help came from the FBI and its Hungarian equivalent, the Magyar Nemzeti Nyomozóiroda (NNI). They also tried to elicit public help by offering 100 million forints ($530,000) to anyone who could lead the police to the murderers. That is a lot of money by any standard but in Hungary it is a fortune. In the end it turned out that the police themselves solved the case without any critically important tips. The police chief kept repeating that his men were working day and night and were sparing no time or effort. Among their projects was checking 4.5 million cell phone calls; it was one or more of these calls that eventually led the police to the men. Oh, those cell phones. They are dangerous if one is up to no good!
The police always suspected that the four or five people involved in the murders were related. Although the full picture is emerging slowly and not all the details are known, it seems that of the four people arrested two are brothers. They live in Debrecen and work as bouncers in a downtown bar. The two others are also bouncers in a nearby karaoke bar and live in a village close to the city. HírTV claims to know that these two are somehow related to István K. and his brother. Both bars are rented by the same man, Zoltán Barabás, who seems to know mighty little about the men he hired. In fact, he claims not to know them at all, although he did see them here and there when he went to visit his establishments. Mr. Barabás certainly wasn't paying much attention either to his bouncers or his pubs since the police found shotguns in the wall behind the bar. I assume that we are not talking about a solid wall but some wooden panelling. Soon enough it also became known that these characters belong to an organization called Keleti Arcvonal Bajtársi Szövetség (Eastern Firing Line Fraternal Society) named after Ferenc Szálasi's storm troopers. The locals seem to know that among the arrested there are people who took part in setting fire to the Ark of the Covenant in the Debrecen synagogue in the 1990s.
In addition to the four men who have been arrested there is a fifth person, a woman who is in charge of organizing programs for the bar. The police let her go, but she will be questioned as a witness. The suspicion is that the woman knows more about the men and their activities than an average co-worker should. A sixth person will be also questioned. He is a young guy who works there as a bartender. Bencze indicated that perhaps more people will be arrested in the near future. Apparently inhabitants of Debrecen are in shock and are afraid that their city henceforth will be known as the home of racist murderers. Debrecen is a Fidesz stronghold where, by the way, Jobbik did better than the national average.
There is no question that these attacks and killings were racially motivated. Two of the men arrested had tattoos related to Hitler and Nazism. All four have shaven heads and apparently can be connected to Nazi websites.The police searched sixteen different places and seized a lot of evidence: weapons, maps, and three black SUVs that many witnesses saw in the villages where the attacks occurred. Apparently the amount of stuff seized is enormous. A fullsize van was necessary to haul non-vehicular evidence away. According to the latest information the four were already planning their next hit, a village in the county of Nógrád. The police found one map where even the targeted house was marked!
The police always suspected that among the perpetrators there had to be someone with military training. We know that the age spread is considerable: between twenty-eight and forty-two. The younger ones most likely didn't serve in the Hungarian army. So when I read that MTI (Magyar Távirati Iroda) learned that one of the suspects had been a professional soldier I figured that he probably belonged to the older crew. Apparently this man got hold of the weapons and taught the others to handle them.
One thing is sure: it will hard to minimize the far-right danger in Hungary from here on. The police already has nine people under arrest as members of the Arrows of Hungarians that was targeting politicians. Four more now from Szálasi's storm troopers, and most likely there will be others. I just read that today some Jobbik members crossed into Slovakia to join the Slovak Brotherhood (Slovenská Pospolitos) in demonstrating against "Gypsy crime" in Krompachy (Korompa), a sizeable village in eastern Slovakia with a large Roma population. The Slovak government handled the situation well. The Brotherhood's leader, Marián Kotlebát, was arrested and the illustrious members of Jobbik were turned back to Hungary. Another group of Jobbik members blockaded one side of the bridge between Komárom and Komárno in order to protest Slovakia's treatment of László Sólyom, while another group headed by Jobbik EP member, Csanád Szegedi–the one who showed up in Magyar Gárda uniform at the opening of the European Parliament–laid a wreath at the new statue of St. Stephen in Komárno. While some Magyar Gárda members were busy in Komárno, a "new" Hungarian Guard held a swearing-in ceremony on private property in Szentendre, the birthplace of Hungarism. How appropriate! What I especially don't like is that because of Sólyom's insensitivity and bullheadedness a situation has developed where Jobbik and the Hungarian Guard can claim to be defending the brave, ill-treated president of the republic. I don't know whether Sólyom actually realizes what's going on, but nothing good.