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Far-right group mobilises; Slovak Roma express fear

SLOVAKIA’S Roma communities are worried about a series of attacks on Roma in the region. Most recently, a 45-year-old Roma woman was shot dead and her 13-year-old daughter was seriously injured in the town of Kisléta, in eastern Hungary. Fears have been stoked further by a recent call, issued via an extremist website, for people to ‘mobilise’ in Šarišské Michalany (Prešov Region) in response to an alleged attack by two young Roma on a 65-year-old man. The pensioner, who is not Roma, lost an eye as a result of the attack.

SLOVAKIA’S Roma communities are worried about a series of attacks on Roma in the region. Most recently, a 45-year-old Roma woman was shot dead and her 13-year-old daughter was seriously injured in the town of Kisléta, in eastern Hungary. Fears have been stoked further by a recent call, issued via an extremist website, for people to ‘mobilise’ in Šarišské Michalany (Prešov Region) in response to an alleged attack by two young Roma on a 65-year-old man. The pensioner, who is not Roma, lost an eye as a result of the attack.

“Friends, Slovaks. Let’s do everything so that after Saturday you can call yourself the fighters for the nation,” reads the call, which appeared on the website pospolitost.org. Slovenská Pospolitosť, a far-right organisation which was once banned by the Interior Ministry, said that the website did not belong to it. However, the Sme daily reported that a Slovenská Pospolitosť representative responded via the email address given on the website.

Slovenská Pospolitosť is now registered as a civic association, after being banned as a political party in 2006. It was previously banned as a civic association as well, but Slovakia’s Supreme Court later cancelled the decision, made by the Interior Ministry in November 2008, because of what the court described as procedural failings. The ministry is now attempting to disband Pospolitosť as a civic association once more.

According to Sme, the planned rally should resemble one held in the Czech town of Litvínov where a year ago neo-Nazi protesters marched against what they called “Roma terror”.

Šarišské Michalany’s mayor, Jozef Brendza, has not been told about any planned rallies. He told Sme that he would immediately order the dispersal of any rally. He has been cooperating with the police over the issue.

Meanwhile, several Roma organizations wrote an open letter calling on the Slovak president, the Slovak government and the European Commission to take decisive action against extremism.

“A murder in neighbouring Hungary, where a woman – a mother and a citizen – lost her life a few days ago, forces us not to be passive and wait to see what will happen,” reads the letter, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

The Roma organisations are calling for strong action against extremism.

“The fear, which we - the Roma - feel when observing the situation in neighbouring Hungary, Italy and other countries of the European Union make us fear for our lives and the lives of our children, whom we send to schools, shops and streets in fear – only because we are Roma,” reads the letter.

In response to the developments, Prime Minister Robert Fico said he strictly condemns any demonstrations of intolerance, extremism and racism. Fico also said that Slovenská Pospolitosť should be outlawed.

The police will not tolerate any violation of public order or any demonstration of sympathies with Nazism or racism, Fico said, according to TASR.

The Slovak Roma Initiative (RIS) called on Slovaks not to be overpowered by racial and ethnic intolerance, which it said is being "ignited by the self-appointed protectors of the Slovak nation".

The RIS said that people in civilised societies do not take justice into their own hands. At the same time, the RIS apologised to the 65-year-old victim of the attack in Šarišské Michalany. The RIS statement described the action of his alleged assailants as 'inexcusable', TASR wrote.

Tibor Loran of the Institute of Roma European Studies condemned the decision of the Supreme Court to cancel the Interior Ministry’s decision to outlaw Pospolitosť. According to Sme, Loran is also convinced that Hungarian neo-Nazi groups, which he said are involved in killings of Roma in Hungary, are behind the call to meet.

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