Four men had a habit on going on killing sprees, and they now face trial in a country increasingly tolerant of neo-Nazi sentiment.
Their most famous crime shook what there is to remain of a civil society in Hungary. Early in the morning in February of 2009 in the small north-eastern village of Tatarszentgyorgy, an SUV stopped in front of a house on the outskirts of the village. It is well-known in such villages that the few houses on the border belong to the Roma, a minority under fierce and unmasked racist attack in today’s Hungary. The passengers of the SUV threw a Molotov-cocktail into the house. The inhabitants wanted to flee the house when gun-fire opened on them from the SUV outside of their door: a 5-year old child and his father died in the attack, several other family members were injured.
It took a few days before the police made the connection between this attack and several previous reports of lesser violence against Roma individuals fashioned in a similar way. In fact, it took several days before the police was willing to document that there was criminal mischief involved in the incident: since the residents of the house looked like they were trying to flee from a burning house, it took pressure from civil organizations monitoring the investigation to point out that there were bullets to be recovered from around the house. For several days, the police was investigating a “fire-related accident” with fatal injuries.
At the time of the shootings, the concept of “Roma criminality” had already become a well-accepted part of the Hungarian vocabulary. It refers to crimes for which the Roma minority is to be held responsible. The idea is drawn along the same racist lines as it would be to hold that economically disadvantaged minority communities are plagued by the criminality of their resident’s race. In the same way in which, in the US, para-military white supremacist organizations decided to take it upon themselves to eradicate the evil caused by various minority races, in Hungary too, by this time around, a paramilitary organization was already in existence to fight “roma criminality”. The Hungarian Guard, a Hungarian nationalist organization (with members who also overtly subscribe to neo-Nazi ideologies) had been on a self-appointed mission to defend a society of law and order – which, in their judgment, regular police forces could no longer uphold – since 2006.
As it turns out, two of the four men on trial for these murders were founding members of the Hungarian Guard who were quickly disillusioned by the organization. Instead of limiting themselves to the intimidating tactics for which the Hungarian Guard is known by now, they decided to take its mission to a new and more concrete level.
All in all, they executed eight similar attacks between July of 2008 and August of 2009. They attacked on nine locations, threw eleven Molotov cocktails and shot 78 bullets. Six fatalities resulted, five persons sustained life-threatening injuries. Another 55 person were placed at risk of serious injuries due to their activities. Their activity was constrained to the north-east of Hungary, parts of the country highest in unemployment, and, as such, most stricken by deep poverty. The political appeal of the neo-Nazi party Jobbik, the political arm of the Hungarian Guard currently holding 12% of the seats in the legislative assembly is the highest in these regions in Hungary
It is not clear how many years in prison the defendants will serve if found guilty. The trials are scheduled to conclude on July 13, 2011.