Hungary promises to tackle far-right vigilantes after four hurt in clashes

 

HUNGARY’S GOVERNMENT has vowed to crack down on uniformed far-right groups after four people were injured in fighting between ultra-nationalist vigilantes and members of the Roma community.

The clash in the village of Gyöngyöspata came just days after almost 300 local Roma women and children left their homes for the Easter weekend, when a paramilitary group called Vedero, or Defence Force, set up a “training camp” in the area.

Members of Hungary’s centre-right Fidesz government, which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, denied the Roma had been “evacuated” and accused critics of trying to make political capital from the incident.

But they were quick yesterday to promise legal action against a host of far-right vigilante groups, which claim to be bringing order to neglected, impoverished areas of Hungary where the underfunded police force allegedly cannot cope with “Gypsy crime”.

Police said one of the four people injured was in a serious condition after the fight overnight between Vedero members and Roma, and that a number of arrests had been made. Local media quoted witnesses as saying the fight broke out after Vedero members threw stones at a Roma house and attacked a teenager.

“The government is proposing to make the penal code stricter given the emergence of a new form of criminality: uniformed criminality,” said spokesman Peter Szijjarto.

“Those walking around in uniform, pretending they are authorised to take measures against others, these people are criminals. We’ll stop this form of crime,” he added. “According to the proposal, those who spread terror with actions meant to impose order or pretending to impose order will be jailed for up to two years”, and if a particular community is targeted, “this will be considered an aggravating circumstance and could lead to three years in prison”.

Most of the paramilitary groups are linked to Jobbik, the far-right party that is the third-strongest force in Hungarian politics.

Senior Jobbik MP Janos Volner said the incident showed “a crisis in public safety has emerged”.

“The Fidesz government is incapable of guaranteeing law and order anywhere in the country,” he said. “A civil militia should be established in place of the woeful and uncertain police . . . because without unified order the government will not be capable of taking up the fight against this kind of Gypsy crime.”