Roma attack Czech extreme right leader

15 May 1998

The domestic and international press reported on May 10 that Roma had assaulted the leader of the extreme right-wing party, the Association for the Republic -- Republican Party of Czecho-slovakia (SPR-RSČ or „Republicans"), Mr Miroslav Sládek, on May 9 during a campaign speech in the town of Nový˝ Bor in northern Czech Republic. According to ČTK, a spokes-person for the Roma of Nový˝ Bor named Štefan Gorol stated that, „He was arrogant, he defamed the president, insulted his [president's] wife and also Premier [Josef] Tosovský˝. He tried to foment national hatred among people. It was unbearable, some of our women began to weep." Two Romani men reportedly then slapped Sládek several times. Republican campaign posters for the Czech elections in June include one which states „The Republicans are against advantages for Gypsies". Sládek has repeatedly gone on record with anti-Romani statements.

Police opened investigation against two Romani men, but President Václav Havel used constitutional powers afforded the president to cease the investigation into the actions of the two men on May 10. President Havel told the press that he appreciated the Roma's effort to defend his honour and that of his wife. Republican MP Ján Vik then told the press, „The SPR-RSČ must note that the Romani attackers thus became Václav Havel's strike force used against an uncomfortable opposition party and an opposition politician." Observers report that anger within the Romani community in the Czech Republic has been extremely high since the killing by skinheads on February 15, 1998, of 26-year-old Helena Biháriová in the northern Czech town of Vrchlabi.

(ČTK, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Lidové Noviny)

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