Didn’t the children have fun? Didn’t they ’play soldier’ and imitate the militiamen? – is one question asked by the judge, Erika Mucsi when examining János Farkas, witness to the events in Gyöngyöspata. Farkas, former Vice President of the RCRM and former President of the Gyöngyöspata Roma Minority Self Government, provides his short answer: No, Ma’am. The children wet themselves, were aftraid to go to school and were attended to by psychiatrists for months.
Based on the questions, it is becoming clearer and clearer by the moment that we are not just dealing with simple ignorance. The judge is questioning one of the roma community leaders of Gyöngyöspata with an already well thought out preconception in mind.
What exactly was so frightening by the presence of the MABF?
The children were escorted and were daunted with the uniformed men by teachers at school, the women were even escorted inside the grocery store. It was an insinuation against everyone, a 500 member community was collectively labeled criminals.
But why does being escorted cause fear? Why is someone, whose conscience is clear afraid?
Ma’am, if you lived in a village with a population of 2000 and 800 Roma were to arrive, would you be scared?
It is the end of January, the third day of the trial on the disbandment of the MABF initiated by the prosecutor’s office. The Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) submitted a request to the county prosecutor in April of last year to start a legal examination into the MABF and to initiate the disbandment of the group at the court of law.
The prosecutor agreed with NEKI that the MABF’s - which was established as a militiamen association - activities were clearly abusing the right to assembly. Practicing the right to assembly shall not include invitation to commit a criminal offence or an invitation to commit a crime and it shall not restrict others’ rights and freedoms. According to NEKI, the MABF openly harbors anti-Roma views, its activities are primarily based on propagating extreme views, provoking and harassing local Roma communities.
The HCLU has come to the same conclusion and has published its detailed standpoint in a shadow report
in September, 2011.
During the January 23rd hearing, besides János Farkas Sr., his son János Farkas Jr. is also heard as a witness, along with László Tábi, former Mayor of Gyöngyöspata, who was pressured into resignation after the arrival of the self-proclaimed militia groups.
Before beginning questioning the first witness, the presiding judge grants the MABF’s attorney’s request and patiently awaits the arrival of the late-coming supporters of the MABF, who do indeed arrive a few minutes later – all 25-30 boot-wearing superpatriots. The setting is the usual, in an attempt to dishonor and shame witnesses, all statements receive a hearty laugh from the peanut gallery.
First, during the questioning of the first witness, the judge is set on examining the connection between the ’employment-sector barometer and the ethnic microclimate of Gyöngyöspata’ in relation to public security.
Was the police able to deal with the increasing crime rate? Were there apprehensions? How can the ethnic motive be linked to the crimes? Were the actions of Roma teenagers cause for fear? When did the possibility of outside help first arise?
The rate of successful police investigations has decreased, the witness has no knowlegde of apprehensions, verbal abuse did cause fear and the older women were afraid to go to church on Sundays. More and more people were enquiring about the municipality’s responsibility and were demanding a more drastic approach. At the same time, the municipality had little room to maneuver legally, however discussion with the misbehaving teens’ parents was initiated, but unfortunately was not successful. Outside help was requested by a local resident and leader of the local Jobbik political party from Gábor Vona, MP and President of Jobbik.
Gábor Vona’s name comes up numerous times, but the judge consistently fails to mention it, misuses his title and position and is even entered into the records incorrectly.
Help arrived in the form of a 20 person militia. Only the MABF was present in the first 2 weeks – continues the former mayor. The picture clears up soon: from the beginning, the local Roma Minority Self-government has indicated that the arbitrary marching by militiamen causes fear within the Roma community. It was only after this that two other groups, Betyársereg and Véderő joined the MABF in Gyöngyöspata.
The prosecutor then begins to question the witness on the route of the marching and tries to tie it to the unlawful activities of the formerly disbanded Hungarian Guard, while the defense attorney of the MABF unsuccessfully tries to insinuate that it was János Farkas Jr. who generated fear in his own Roma community.
After a short break, the questioning of János Farkas Sr. starts with inquiries about public safety.
Did the misbehaving teenagers embitter the lives of the defenseless elderly?
There were some rude teenagers, but stories of these teens collecting toll fees on bridges for example, are just malicious stories intent on generating hatred. These actions can in no way be compared to the threatening siege of hundreds of racist militiamen responsible for everyday marches through the village, continuous provocation, and the threat to the well-being of Roma people.
Meanwhile the choir of superpatriots has warmed up. The court’s appointed guard is also following the procedure, which he silently comments with intense facial mimicry, friendly eye-contact with the peanut gallery and the shaking of his head. Fans of the defendant were welcomed with open arms by locals, who besides providing meals and accommodation were also providing financial assistance – says János Farkas Sr.
Why do you think locals were so happy to have the MABF present?
It was a pre-planned political farce, played out with the support of Jobbik in order to impeach the mayor and make way for Oszkár Juhász, leader of the local Jobbik party. It was a planned action, uncomprehended by locals blinded by the extraordinary events.
The judge then continues on by repeating the Jobbik’s well-known rhetoric stating that rights defenders in Gyöngyöspata distributed donations. Rights defenders brought themselves, not donations. Donations were distributed by the Red Cross – stated the reply. This is not the only answer confusing Mucsi. It turns out she is not certain what the difference is between the Roma Civil Rights Movement and the militiamen. The prosecutor tries to define it for her, but to no avail. She does not let off easily, she would like to know why militiamen escorting children home to their mothers’ arms is a problem.
Witnesses are unable to convince the judge of the massive fear installed in the Roma community by the militiamen – it seems as though bloodshed is the missing ingredient. No, there was no blood, for the fourth time, no, the rights defenders did not distribute donations and no, they did not intentionally plant fear into the Roma community so that they can report it to the media. The answers seem to annoy the judge. The judge, whose only task should be to decide whether or not to disband the MABF.
In May 2011, the HCLU published its standpoint on the events in Gyöngyöspata and we have called attention to a previous judgment of the courts, which disbanded the Hungarian Guard for similar conduct. The previous judgment states that while violence was not a factor of the Hungarian Guard’s conduct, considering the captive audience, a direct abuse of the Roma minority’s rights did indeed take place. The same can be said about the militiamen marching through the Roma neighborhood, claiming to secure public safety. Non-violence in itself does not legitimize uniformed marches and threatening behaviour, which altogether causes fear and is a generator of exclusion and hatred.
The judgment also states that the conduct does not serve the resolution of public safety concerns, but it instead directly causes conflict. Those not wishing to freely participate in the Hungarian Guard’s activities, but who were still unwillingly present due to the location of their residence, did suffer an abuse of their freedoms and rights.
Legal representation of the Farkas Sr. and Farkas Jr. is provided by the HCLU’s Legal Aid Service.
For further details, please watch the HCLU’s film on the events in Gyöngyöspata!