In its judgment on last Tuesday, the Miskolc City Court imposed 34 years of imprisonment in the case of Romas, who attacked a car near their residence, 3 weeks after the racially motivated massacres in Tatárszentgyörgy, where a child and his father were murdered. The occupants of the car - one of whom had proven ties to skinheads - suffered minor injuries. According to their testimonies, the reason for cruising the Roma row at 1:30am with a canister containing gas oil was to look for an all-night shop.
According to the court’s verdict, there is evidence that the crimes were committed by the Roma with prejudiced motives against Hungarians. Firstly, a stick with the words “death to Hungarians” written on it. The text is unreadable from three steps away, and there is no evidence that anyone used it. Secondly, the testimony of one of the defendants, who alone claimed to have heard someone shouting an anti-Hungarian slogan. This testimony, which was the result of police abuse, was later revoked by the defendant during the court hearing.
In the autumn of 2010, the Borsod-Abaúj County Court repealed the first instance court decision due to structural and procedural failures and it also found the judgement to be unfounded and ordered the court to conduct a new procedure. The new first instance procedure ended with a verdict of imprisonment for all defendants accused of ‘violence against a member of the community’. The verdict is not final, all defendants have appealed the decision.
The current verdict of imprisonment - which is only less by a few years compared to the previous verdict – suggests disproportionately severe penalties. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union believes the offense was misclassified, since the classification of an act as ‘violence against a member of the community’ requires the crime to be motivated by prejudice against a group. In case of an attack on a suspiciously slow moving vehicle with tinted windows at night on the Roma row during the time of the racially motivated serial murders against Roma raises doubts whether the judiciary are clear on the intentions of special regulations on hate crime. The verdict further strengthens social prejudice against the Roma community, while bias motivated acts against the Roma rarely end in indictment or conviction in Hungary.