From a fair verdict to an unfounded accusation: Fidesz and the Roma murders

Today is a landmark in the history of Hungarian jurisprudence. The court found four men guilty of various crimes, including murder motivated by racial hatred. Three  men received life imprisonment without parole, the maximum sentence that can be meted out in Hungary, and the fourth received a 13-year sentence without the possibility of early release.

I wrote many times about the murders when they happened between July 21, 2008 and August 3, 2009. A group of men injured several people and killed six. The incidents occurred in villages located in three counties: Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, and Pest. The first two are located in the northeastern corner of the country where there is a large concentration of ethnic Roma. As it turned out, the perpetrators lived in Debrecen.

It would be too long to catalog all the mistakes the police and the medical authorities made during the investigation which resulted in a less than complete discovery of all the details. It is very possible that in addition to the four sentenced today there might have been others involved. But despite the sloppy police work there was enough evidence to find these four men guilty. Although members of the victims’ families complained that the fourth man’s sentence was too light, most people think that the judge did a good job and that the sentences are fair and deserved.

Fidesz reacted to the resolution of this case, which took three years of investigation and 186 days in court, by hinting darkly about the “true culprits.”

By now Fidesz has so many spokesmen that it is hard to keep track of them. Viktor Orbán not without reason considers communication a vital, perhaps the most important part of politics. One could be malicious and say that since governing is not Viktor Orbán’s forte he puts all his efforts into propaganda about his nonexistent accomplishments. And when the talk is not about “we are doing better,” then these spokesmen concentrate on attributing the greatest crimes to Fidesz’s political opponents. The spokesman today was Róbert Zsigó, one of the newer appointees.

I must admit that I had never heard of Róbert Zsigó before he became a Fidesz spokesman although he has been a member of parliament ever since 1998. His educational background is meager: at the age of eighteen he finished a course that qualified him to become a pastry chef and for ten years he worked as an employee in a confectionery shop. Most likely because he was planning a political career he decided to finish gymnasium at the age of 29. According to his biography, he is currently a student at the University of Pécs. A Fidesz spokesman, member of the Baja city council, member of parliament, and a student at Pécs. What a multi-tasker!

Zsigó is not very careful with his words when he viciously attacks Fidesz’s political  opponents. Only a couple of months ago he hurled all sorts of abuse studded with lies against Gordon Bajnai who promptly sued him. And I’m sure that many more law suits will follow if Zsigó keeps up his usual way of handling news.

Róbert Zsigó one of Fidesz's  spokesmen

Róbert Zsigó, one of Fidesz’s spokesmen

So, let’s see what Zsigó came up with on the occasion of the sentencing of these serial murderers. Instead of dwelling on the importance of this verdict, Zsigó talked about the unanswered questions still lingering around the case. One of these questions is “why did these murders occur in 2008 and 2009, during the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments?” It would also be good to know, he continued, “in whose interest” these murders took place. “Who are those whose skins were saved and whose names will remain hidden forever?” It is a good thing he didn’t go any further than that. As it is, these sentences border on accusing two Hungarian prime ministers of hiring hit men.

Zsigó immediately added that Sándor Laborc, head of the National Security Office, György Szilvásy, minister in charge of national security matters in the Gyurcsány government, and Ádám Ficsor, his successor in the Bajnai government, are responsible for what happened. Zsigó called Laborc and Szilvásy “central figures of the mafia Left whom Gyurcsány, Bajnai, and Mesterházy as one man defended. ” You may recall that it was a month ago that I reported on the secret trial of Szilvásy and Laborc on espionage charges. Orbán, after being unable to put Ferenc Gyurcsány behind bars, settled on his friend and minister, György Szilvásy.

This reaction by one of the spokesmen of Fidesz was carefully prepared. It is likely that the script Zsigó delivered was written a long time ago to be delivered at the time of the announcement of the verdict.

Not surprisingly in the wake of such an official pronouncement, Magyar Hírlap came out with the following headline: “Why did the murders occur under Bajnai?” Magyar Nemzet went even farther with this headline: “Roma murders: [Fidesz] would like to investigate the responsibility of Gyurcsány.” The article tried to interpret some of the comments of opposition politicians as an attempt to divert attention from the alleged criminal involvement of high government officials in covering up the real story behind the Roma murders.

The most outrageous accusation involved Ágnes Vadai whom the reporter asked about Viktória Mohácsi, an SZDSZ member of parliament, EP MEP, and Roma activist who is currently seeking political asylum in Canada. Viktória Mohácsi claimed in an interview with CBC that the Gyurcsány government withheld documents and information in order to cover up the fact that government employees had something to do with these crimes. Vadai very politely said that she doesn’t know anything about this because by the time the matter was discussed she wasn’t a member of the parliamentary committee on national security. Interestingly enough, Magyar Nemzet and other right-wing papers normally have nothing but scorn for Mohácsi and her claim of political persecution in Hungary. But now for obvious reasons she became a handy source of information trying to implicate Gyurcsány in the serial murder of Gypsies.

The whole thing is disgusting. I understand that politics can be dirty. But that dirty? Suggesting, almost accusing, one’s political opponents of hiring hit men for unknown and unspecified reasons in some unnamed people’s interest? It boggles the mind.

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Minusio
Guest

Yes Éva, THAT dirty. And extremely dumb, too. Some media abroad – for the first time – felt obliged to report that there were still some judges left in Hungary who could distinguish between right and wrong.

But Róbert Zsigó decided / was told to keep up the smear campaign against Gyurcsány and Bajnai.

But we perhaps shouldn’t even expect short-term wisdom or just plain cleverness from someone who is paying down a low-interest debt with a high-interest loan – just to suit his pride.

And we shouldn’t forget either how Orbán shifted the Roma problem to the EU during his presidency.

But he is in good company: Czechia seems to be turning to a similar path under Zeman.

Paul
Guest

As I’m always saying – this is what we’re up against. It’s not just that they don’t play by the rules – there are no rules.

And, again as I’m always saying, can you imagine what this lot would be like in opposition if they did manage to lose in 2014? It would be civil war in all but name.

But at least the murdering bastards are (finally) where they belong. One small bit of Hungary still functions ethically.

Paul
Guest

Well, so far, in the UK at least, the mad Fidesz spin hasn’t made the news. The BBC reports that others are suspected of being involved, but hints at the security/intelligence services, not anything political. The Guardian barely covers the story at all.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23586440

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/06/neo-nazis-jailed-roma-killings

Member

Anybody want to bet how long we’ll have to wait before somebody pipes up with, “Why does the media care only about Gypsy murder victims when Hungarians get murdered by Gypsies every day?”

It’s currently 230 a.m. in Hungary, so I’ll give it another seven hours or so.

Member

@seal Unfortunately we didn’t have to wait. The commenters on this Facebook group think they are heroes. Sickening.

http://most.444.hu/2013/08/06/akik-hoskent-unneplik-a-ciganygyilkosokat

Member

If you would like dose of racism on the topic of these murders, just visit politics.hu

Mandy Johnson
Guest
Paul, you are right. There are no rules. This is something the West will never understand (ok, maybe the Americans who grew up on Fox news and Limbaugh will). Fidesz uses any and all means to win against the left. To think that a ‘major’ paper would propagate conspiracy theories (which they, the newspaper staff, make up) is unthinkable in the West (EU), but in Hungary the right wing and state media (with altogether about 90% cover) are nothing more than Fidesz propaganda outlets. As the elections are nearing Fidesz will use every opportunity to connect all badness to the left. Rest assured that the drought will be blamed on the left (e.g. if they had spent enough on irrigation systems, everything would be fine) as well as other issues. These may sound crazy to intellectuals, but 90% of the people will hear nothing else than these theories and so the theories will have the desired effect. And the right enthusiastically marches against the left. They are completely united and do whatever is told from the top. The right does not give the smallest s**t about Orbán’s policies or what he says or does, they know that their only job… Read more »
Guest

Thank you, Liz and Mandy!

If you have a strong stomach (I warned you!) you really should read the comments on politics.hu – any thread containing the words “Jew” or “Roma” will do.

I must confess that sometimes (for example right now when it’s much too hot to go outside) I like to provoke the Nazis there and I’ve just again received death threats like others to raise their voice against those right wing loonies.

The racism there is so extreme – in Germany they would go to jail for their postings – on the other hand it is a kind of eye opener maybe for “normal people” who are interested in Hungarian politics.

Btw the “Spiegel” was one of the first media to report on the Roma murders – and it’s very critical, even scathing on the police work and the government.

I also wonder why the MSZP government did not put more pressure on the police at the time – or were the police already “ambivalent” about the whole thing just like parts of the German secret police on those “Döner murders” in Germany ?

Guest
Rokon Béla
Guest

Do you remember the optimistic GDP-growth predictions which even the London-based analysts sucked in?

Industry this year has been more or less consistently approx. 1.5% below last year, e.g. Jan-June compared to Jan-June 2012.

The government hoped that at least nominal growth, which can be sold politically will come from gains in agriculture given the basis (2012) was disastrous. So even though agriculture hs a minimal 3-4% weight in GDP? it could have increase by 30-50% which was not impossible if we had an average year. It seems no such luck.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2013/08/07/szazmilliardos_kart_okoz_a_forrosag/

This means that almost surely in 2013 we will have a further recession compared to 2012. Analysts will react slowly, in London they cover a dozen markets, and inflation and budget debt are nice in an an international comparison, so they don’t care for the moment, but mark may words, this means a recession for 2013 and thus a further increasing debt/gdp to about 85% (representing of course in both absolute and relative terms a huge increase, that is after the confiscation of the private pension funds, compared to 2010).

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Oh well, in this world everybody spins. The question is why choose to spin it this way? After all, the Govt could claim to his credit (even if he had little to do with it) that after a long battle against prejudice, justice was eventually served.

oneill
Guest

“I understand that politics can be dirty. But that dirty?”

Surely you been covering Orban and Fidesz long enough now never to be shocked at their modus operandi?

They do not operate within the same civilised and moral boundaries as their opponents- that is hardly news?

Many (most?) of their voter base consider the Roma and Jews as subhuman and if a few are “liquidated” then “so what?” would be their answer.

The Fidesz politerati and journalist lap dogs are slightly different in that they consider their political opponents, be they in Budapest or Brussels, as subhuman. If you believe that, then it is a very short step indeed to tell lies about them or indeed throw them in the clink.

tappanch
Guest

Every shop is ordered to get a new cash register connected directly to the Tax Office by September 1st. The only type of machine satisfying the requirements is made in Poland.

A firm close to Fidesz < Simicska < Kozgep was selected to be a mandatory intermediary between the shops and the manufacturer.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2013/08/07/ex-kozgep-ceg_a_penztargepugy_foszereploje/

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Many (most?) of their voter base consider the Roma and Jews as subhuman and if a few are “liquidated” then “so what?” would be their answer.

Actually, the measure of anti-Roma prejudice is slightly higher among MSZP than Fidesz voters (Tarki, 2011).

Which is why I guess this kind of spinning is worth it: few Fidesz voters will publicly disagree, Jobbik voters will approve, and a sizable part of MSZP voters will be embarrassed.

tappanch
Guest

How much are the salaries/income in Hungary?

The OECD thinks that the average household net-adjusted disposable income is $13,858 a year.

http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/hungary/

I would love to know how they calculated this number, since
the AVERAGE monthly NET salary is just 144,000 HUF, i.e. $7,668 a year,
while the MEDIAN salary is only 110,000 HUF, i.e. $5,858 a year.

tappanch
Guest

The average social security was $5,097 in 2012.

(95,716 HUF a month, source:
http://www.vg.hu/kozelet/tarsadalom/huszonnyolcszoros-nyugdijkulonbseg-398412)

tappanch
Guest

Freedom of speech will be further restricted by the new Civil Code after March 15, 2014.

http://444.hu/2013/08/07/szolasszabadsag1/

Paul
Guest

“As the elections are nearing Fidesz will use every opportunity to connect all badness to the left. Rest assured that the drought will be blamed on the left (e.g. if they had spent enough on irrigation systems, everything would be fine) as well as other issues. These may sound crazy to intellectuals, but 90% of the people will hear nothing else than these theories and so the theories will have the desired effect.”

This isn’t speculation, this is exactly what they did between 2006 and 2010 – have we forgotten already? And think how much worse it will be now they have total power.

Paul
Guest

OT – but not that much:

This is an open letter from Stephen Fry (Szent István to us in the UK!) to the UK PM and the organisers of the Winter Olympics, demanding a boycott of the 2014 games because of Putin’s anti-gay legislation and the open persecution of gays in Russia (he draws comparisons with the 1936 Nazi Olympics – Fry is both gay and Jewish).

It’s worth a read in itself, but what struck me whilst I was reading it, is that, if you replace ‘Putin’ with ‘Orbán; all the way through, you get a frightening view of the near future in Hungary.

Christ alone knows how (and it certainly won’t be an MSzP win in 2014!), but this lunatic has got to be stopped before it really gets bad.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/08/07/stephen-fry-compares-russian-winter-olympics-to-nazi-hosted-1936-olympics-in-letter-to-david-cameron/

Supervision2013
Guest

The solution is an EU gaurdianship.
EU establishes a team of Hungarians to supervise Hungary.
Tavares can chair the team.

Kirsten
Guest

tappanch :
How much are the salaries/income in Hungary?
The OECD thinks that the average household net-adjusted disposable income is $13,858 a year.

I do not know how exactly they calculate it but according to what you write they are speaking about “households” (can include more than one “average” or “median” salary), and about disposable income (includes in addition to wages: income from small private businesses – if you own a small firm; property income – e.g. from renting flats, interest from savings on bank accounts etc; and government transfers, ie pensions, child allowances etc.). And in the end this can be higher than the average wage.

tappanch
Guest
Kirsten : tappanch : How much are the salaries/income in Hungary? The OECD thinks that the average household net-adjusted disposable income is $13,858 a year. I do not know how exactly they calculate it but according to what you write they are speaking about “households” (can include more than one “average” or “median” salary), and about disposable income (includes in addition to wages: income from small private businesses – if you own a small firm; property income – e.g. from renting flats, interest from savings on bank accounts etc; and government transfers, ie pensions, child allowances etc.). And in the end this can be higher than the average wage. This would be possible only if every household had two money earners. What about the plenty of singles and widows, the unemployed? The breakdown of the Hungarian society was the following in 2012: In thousands: population 9,932 population between the ages 15 and 74= 7,657 1. Active people 3,878 ————————————- Employees 3,425 [that includes the “public workers” earning $2,600 a year net] Individual entrepreneurs 435 Family helping hands 16 Members of cooperatives 2 2. Unemployed people 476 3. Inactive people 5,578 ————————————- Pensioners (soc.sec.) below 75: 1,816 Students over 14: 770… Read more »
Ron
Guest

tappanch :
How much are the salaries/income in Hungary?
The OECD thinks that the average household net-adjusted disposable income is $13,858 a year.
http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/hungary/
I would love to know how they calculated this number, since
the AVERAGE monthly NET salary is just 144,000 HUF, i.e. $7,668 a year,
while the MEDIAN salary is only 110,000 HUF, i.e. $5,858 a year.

I too would like to know it. I found on the OECD website a calculator module, but it only works for 2009 (in HUF). http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/oecdfamilydatabasethefamilysupportcalculator.htm

Kirsten
Guest
On Ron’s page there is also this sentence: “But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn nearly four times as much as the bottom 20%.” And: ” In Hungary, the average net adjusted disposable income of the top 20% of the population is an estimated 25 395 USD a year, whereas the bottom 20% live on an estimated 6 273 USD a year.” That could explain a bit. But they also define net disposable income as this: “Household disposable income includes income from economic activity (wages and salaries; profits of self-employed business owners), property income (dividends, interests, and rents), social benefits in cash (retirement pensions, unemployment benefits, family allowances, basic income support, etc.), and social transfers in kind (goods and services, such as health care, education and housing, received either free of charge or at reduced prices).” I think that “social transfers in kind” will be something that may appear surprising first but apparently it is necessary to include this for international comparison if these services are being provided in some countries more or less for free and in others not. (I learned already that the average Hungarian does… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Kirsten: (I learned already that the average Hungarian does not care for health care, even if there was mass protests against some fee of 300 Ft, but it is some service that others consider to be quite relevant.)

I agree with you, and the reason for this is the none transparency of the social Security contribution, or lack thereof. Basically it is one percentage of the gross salary and does not show on the payroll slip. I believe if people are made aware of this every month, they will care about this. Btw it use to be close to 50%, and it is now 29%.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
Kirsten :I think that “social transfers in kind” will be something that may appear surprising first but apparently it is necessary to include this for international comparison if these services are being provided in some countries more or less for free and in others not. (I learned already that the average Hungarian does not care for health care, even if there was mass protests against some fee of 300 Ft, but it is some service that others consider to be quite relevant.) Generally, social transfers in kind concern primarily education services, then health services and housing subsidies. By the way, partially or fully subsidized access to water can be part of it. When they’re developed, they can seriously improve the global redistribution scheme. They’re also very important to understand that the actual consumption of people in the lower quintiles can be almost twice the amount of their out-of-pocket expenditures. An example for France in this paper: http://www.insee.fr/en/themes/document.asp?ref_id=ip1264 Now, at the turn of the 20th Century there was a huge debate both in the US and Europe over whether ‘social transfers’ (at the time it was mostly called charity, food and clothing) should be in kind or in cash. Globally, at… Read more »
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