Man dies after being tear-gassed by police

THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisation People against Racism has filed a criminal complaint over the death of a Roma civil patrol member in mid May in Tornaľa, Banská Bystrica Region. The man died after an incident in which police deployed tear gas against him. The organisation claims that police used an inappropriate amount of tear gas, the SITA newswire reported.

THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisation People against Racism has filed a criminal complaint over the death of a Roma civil patrol member in mid May in Tornaľa, Banská Bystrica Region. The man died after an incident in which police deployed tear gas against him. The organisation claims that police used an inappropriate amount of tear gas, the SITA newswire reported.

The Aktualne.sk news portal reported that on May 9 the man, who worked as a member of the Roma civil patrols in Tornaľa, became involved in an argument with travelling merry-go-round owners who were in the process of leaving the town. He approached them and asked whether they had paid the municipal office for the electricity they had used. A row broke out and the police were called to intervene, which they did by using tear-gas against the man, identified as Štefan I.

An ambulance was called to the scene of the incident and Štefan I. was treated by medical staff before being allowed to return home, apparently in a normal condition. However, on May 17 he started having problems breathing, Aktualne.sk reported. He was taken to hospital in Rimavská Sobota, where he died. The official cause of death was extensive swelling of the brain, preceded by symptoms of suffocation. The doctor who performed the autopsy on Štefan I.’s body said that he might have died from gradual poisoning caused by inappropriate use of tear gas, Aktualne.sk wrote.

People against Racism flied a complaint over the case not just because of what they say was the police’s careless approach, but also over the fact that in all records of the case the victim was referred to as “Roma”.

“This case shows how perception in our society has shifted,” wrote Alena Krempaská from People against Racism, as quoted by SITA. “Regardless of the fact that Štefan I. was a member of the civil patrols and a well-behaved citizen, he was automatically and a priori regarded as a criminal, without there being any proper evidence against him. At the scene of the incident five victims were present who could have confirmed he was innocent.”

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