Monday, August 10, 2009



Police break up anti-gypsy march in Slovakia
By Jan Cienski in Warsaw and Tom Nicholson in Bratislava

Published: August 9 2009 22:23 | Last updated: August 9 2009 22:23

Tensions between Slovak nationalists and the country’s large Roma minority escalated over the weekend when riot police had to break up an anti-gypsy march in the country’s east.

About 200 members of the far-right Slovenska Pospolitist (Slovak Brotherhood) pelted police with rocks and bottles on Saturday in the eastern Slovak town of Sarisske Michalany.

The mostly shaven-headed young men were protesting against what they termed “Roma terror” in Slovakia. Five policemen were injured, along with two skinheads, and more than 30 arrests were made.

The march was called after Roma teenagers were accused of beating up an elderly man last week. The victim lost an eye and suffered a fractured skull and broken facial bones. Two boys, aged 15 and 16, are in custody on assault charges.

The unrest in Slovakia is part of a regional increase in attacks on Roma minorities by far-right groups, which began before the economic crisis but seem to have become worse as the region’s economies have plunged into recession.

The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre says there have been firebombings and shootings against gypsies in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary over the past 18 months, and that eight ­people have died.

In Hungary, police have set up a task force to catch what they believe is a gang targeting gypsies. Maria Balogh, who is thought to be the sixth victim of the group, was buried on Friday. Her 13-year-old daughter was wounded in the attack in which she died and remains in hospital.

In the Czech Republic, relations have become so poisonous that Canada re-imposed visa requirements for Czech citizens after hundreds of Roma applied for asylum.

Gypsy migrants in Italy, many of them from Romania, have also been the targets of attacks by local mobs.

Slovenska Pospolitost was formed in 1996 and is led by Marian Kotleba, a former secondary school teacher who was among those arrested on Saturday.

Several gypsy organisations sent an open letter to Slovak authorities and to the European Commission, demanding action.

“The fear, which we – the Roma – feel when observing the situation in neighbouring Hungary, Italy and other countries of the European Union make us fear for our lives and the lives of our children, whom we send to schools, shops and streets in fear – only because we are Roma,” reads the letter, according to Tasr, the Slovak news agency

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