Monday, September 17, 2012





PHOTO Frightened Roma women and children were forced by neo Nazis to flee Gyongyospata. Picture: AFP

“Colonel” sworn to protect Hungarian Roma from neo-Nazi paramilitaries on the rise in Hungary faces two years in prison if found guilty under a law brought in last year to halt Roma persecution.

Ferenc Bago set up a “Roma guard” in the face of attacks from neo-Nazi groups with links to a far-right political party.

But a law prohibiting the formation of unofficial security organisations was enacted soon after a neo-Nazi mob masquerading as a security force terrorised Roma in the village of Gyongyospata in April last year.

Neo-Nazi groups are linked to the far-Right Jobbik party, winner of more than 16 per cent of votes in the parliamentary election of 2010.

Analysts say these Jobbik outriders are ramping up their activities to improve the party’s election chances in 2014. The rightist Fidesz government of Viktor Orban has allowed the neo-Nazi Hungarian Guard, banned in 2009, to reform.

The “New” Hungarian Guard, as it is known, and others linked to Jobbik, march in the name of law-and-order with little police interference. They were allowed to celebrate the foundation of the Hungarian Guard last month. Police watched as a neo-Nazi mob of a thousand poured into the village of Devecser earlier in the month, stoning Roma houses.

“I don’t know of any criminal case being brought against neo-Nazi groups under the law,” said Andras Kadar, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which campaigns for human rights.
“In Devecser clear-cut hate crimes happened in front of the very eyes of the police.”

An anti-Roma march in late July had already soured relations in the typically peaceful southern city of Pecs where “Colonel Daflics”, the nickname of 45-year-old Ferenc Bago. Neo-Nazis carved two swastikas into the wall of Mr Bago’s home in a mixed area of Pecs and stuck stickers on the local bus stop saying, “Aggressive Gypsy, 1,000m.”

Margit Kovacs, Mr Bago’s sister-in-law says she was at home at the time with children as young as nine. The police arrested Mr Bago outside his home at around 4pm last Thursday as he went to board one of “three or four” buses bound for a demonstration in the western town of Veszprem, he said.
His people were planning to protect the demonstrators. He was released after a day and is awaiting trial.

Mr Bago could face two-years in prison if found guilty. His nascent “Roma Guard”, as it has become known, is non-violent, he insists. He said it was a 15-year-old nephew who made Facebook posts in his name proposing people donate small amounts to buy weapons.

The charge against Mr Bago is not for soliciting or caching arms, but for calling on people to form a group aiming to establish law-and-order.

Similar calls, when made on neo-Nazi web sites, go unpunished and, apparently, uninvestigated by the police.

The goal is to build Roma self-confidence,” Mr Bago said. “I will not use weapons. I do not want to spark a civil war.”

He said there are “thousands” willing to join him.

It protected a group of protesters against anti-semitism in Budapest on 27 August, the day of the Hungarian Guard birthday celebration. “We formed a human shield and protected the Jews,” Mr Bago said.

Istvan Hegedos, the Roma’s county representative, is opposed to Mr Bago’s plans: “I don’t think it is a good idea in this situation. There is a monopoly on law-and- order which lies with the police and the interior minister.”

The unlicensed neo-Nazi “security” mobs are not prosecuted, he says, because they are “better established”.

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