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Roma group accuses MP of defamation

REPRESENTATIVES of Roma organisations in Slovakia filed a complaint against parliamentary deputy Jozef Banáš in response to his statements during a NATO Parliamentary Assembly lunch in Bratislava three weeks ago. At the function, he jokingly suggested solving the shortage of NATO troops in Afghanistan by deploying divisions of Slovak Roma.

"Deputy Banáš is accused of committing the crime of the defamation of a nation and a race," Ladislav Fizík, chairman of the non-governmental organisation Roma Parliament told the news wire SITA.

Banáš is the head of the Slovak delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Banáš insists he was just joking and that he merely wanted to move a lengthy debate about the Slovak Roma onto the subject of Afghanistan, which was the main topic to be discussed, as indicated by Assembly President Douglas Bereuter.

He proposed that, in order to solve both problems at once, "we could send about 10 Roma divisions to Afghanistan." No one protested his joke, Banáš pointed out, however he apologised to those who might interpret the statement as an insult to the Roma.

It is embarrassing for Banáš to defame the Slovak Roma in front of Slovak senior state officials and in front of Bereuter, who is a US congressman, Fizík said.

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