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News Briefs

Balážová murder trial begins; defendant contrite
Slovak police: 35 racially motivated crimes last year
Jewish deportation ceremony disturbed by explosion
Racial graffiti strikes Slovakia and Hungary
Justice Ministry angry over ruling on bribery case

Balážová murder trial begins; defendant contrite

The murder trial of the deceased Roma woman Anastázia Balážová, a mother of eight who was killed in her home in Žilina on August 20 after her children had been attacked as they lay in bed, began at the District Military Court in Banská Bystrica on March 28. The accused murderer is a soldier, 26 year-old Peter B.
In his testimony, Peter B. confessed to the murder. He testified that he was the first to enter the house, that he hit doors several times with a baseball bat and then beat the children. He then admitted to striking Balážová in the head after she tried to prevent them leaving the house.
"It was a stupid attack, I don't know how we got the idea to do it," he stated. He said that he had never had strong feelings against the Roma, and that the police theory that the assault had been revenge for a Roma attack on his friend was false.
Peter B. (26) is charged with committing a racially motivated crime, causing serious bodily harm and trespassing. The three other offenders who broke into the Roma house also face charges, with their cases falling under the District Court in Žilina. No date has been set for their trial.
According to the prosecution, under the influence of alcohol the defendants decided to take revenge for an alleged attack by an unknown Roma on their friend. They broke into the Balážová house at 3:30 as the family slept and began beating the inhabitants with baseball bats. After about 30 seconds, they discovered that their victims were children and stopped. When they ran from the house, Anastázia Balážová tried to stop them. Peter B. then struck her with the baseball bat; she died in hospital two days later from head injuries.


Slovak police: 35 racially motivated crimes last year

Police Vice-President Imrich Angyal announced March 26 that 35 racially motivated attacks had been reported in Slovakia during 2000, of which 25 had been solved. Fourteen of the attacks occurred in Bratislava, while the Prešov region reported no racially motivated attacks.
According to police data, there were no racially motivated murders, five case of causing bodily harm, and 19 cases of violence against a group of citizens. The Roma were the most common targets of the attacks.
There were 33 offenders involved in the 25 solved cases, most of whom were described by police as sympathisers of the skinhead movement. A majority of the culprits were under the age of 18, and eight were intoxicated at the time of the attack.


Jewish deportation ceremony disturbed by explosion

A group of around 100 Slovaks in Poprad commemorating the first deportation of Jewish women and girls from Slovakia to Nazi concentration camps had their ceremony disturbed by an unknown culprit who threw an explosive device near the gathering. The March 26 explosion near a former synagogue interrupted a speech by Poprad Mayor Štefan Kubik, who then called the blast a provocation.
The police reported no injuries or material damage from the blast. The first transport of Jewish women from Slovakia left the Poprad railway station on March 25, 1942. Of an estimated 1,000 women deported that day, only 20 are believed to have survived.


Racial graffiti strikes Slovakia and Hungary

Police in Hungary said they were conducting a search for vandals who spray-painted anti-Slovak phrases on the walls of the Slovak Culture Centre and near a Slovak school in the Hungarian town of Bekescsaba. The phrases read "Slovak Nazis", "Fascist Slovaks" and "Hang Slovak Nazis".
Jan Fuzik, the leader of the Slovak minority regional elected government in Hungary, said the acts had been in response to anti-Hungarian graffiti in Slovakia in late March. The Hungarian consulate in Košice, and a statue of the Hungarian poet Petofi in Bratislava, had both been spray-painted with anti-Hungarian statements, as were several other buildings in Košice.
Bekescsaba Mayor Janos Pap said that the incident had not harmed ethnic Slovak and Hungarian relations in the town. "We have no problems with Slovaks living here," he said. "On the contrary, our relations are very good."


Justice Ministry angry over ruling on bribery case

The Justice Ministry said March 23 that it would lodge a special complaint against a Supreme Court decision that commuted a prison sentence for bribery committed by former Interior Ministry official Emil Boris. Boris, who was caught by police red-handed paying a 500,000 ($10,200) Slovak crown bribe in 1997, was originally given a two year sentence, which was commuted to two years suspended by the Supreme Court.
When caught in front of the Regional Court in Bratislava, Boris had been attempting to bribe a Police Presidium officer into overlooking his involvement in tax fraud for millions of Slovak crowns. The act was caught on camera.
Justice Ministry Head of Office Daniel Lipšic called the verdict "scandalous" in light of the government's National Anti-Corruption programme (announced in February 2000). The offender was caught in the act on camera, Lipšic said, yet got off lightly, thus weakening the fight against corruption.
The Supreme Court explained its light sentence by saying that Boris had originally offered just a 20,000 crown bribe. "Under the pressure of the circumstances," the legal body explained, Boris had been forced into upping the bribe to half a million crowns.

Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA and TASR

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