Shooting in Romani settlement in northern Hungary

15 May 1998

The Hungarian daily Népszabadság reported that a shooting had taken place in a Romani settlement on the outskirts of the northern city of Ózd on February 28.

The Bánszállás quarter is separated from the centre of the northern Hungarian city of Ózd by a massive industrial site. Most of the 400-500 inhabitants of Bánszállás are Roma. According to the head of the Local Gypsy Self-Government, Mr Aladár Kótai, the most deprived and the poorest people of Ózd live in this quarter. Kótai stated that most of the people living in Bánszállás are unemployed, and live on social aid money.

According to the county police, wood theft is frequent in the local forest. As a result, the owner of the forest hired a private company to guard the forest. On February 28, 1998, two guards, Mr G.S. and Mr K.K. were on duty from 10 am to 8 p.m.. A field warden, Mr Z.T. was also present. Both the police investigation and the independent investigation carried out by the Ózd Local Gypsy Self Government established that the guards had been drinking before they started working.

The first conflict between the guards and local Roma took place between 1:30 and 2:30 in the afternoon, when the guards and the warden stopped a fourteen-year-old Romani boy named A.K., who was carrying a sack of potatoes on a bicycle. According to the police, G.S. put a shotgun to the head of the boy and demanded to know where he had stolen the bicycle. The boy reportedly stated that his father had stolen the bicycle. Following this, the guards ordered the boy to cut the tyres of the bicycle into pieces and to push the bicycle, along with the potatoes, to the yard of the local agricultural firm. A.K. did not resist.

In the early afternoon hours, the two guards drove to the centre of Bánszállás. G.S. then stopped a 17-year-old boy who was pulling a cart packed with metal pieces. He started to beat and poke the Romani boy in the shoulder with his gun. When the locals came out of their houses to see what was happening and surrounded the guards, G.S. allegedly shouted, „If you try to touch me, I will take six Gypsies together with me to the next world.'" He then shot twice into the air. Mr K.F., one of the Roma, grabbed the gun, but was unable to take it away from G.S. Z.T., the field warden, tried to intervene, and was shot in the thigh. He started bleeding heavily and lost consciousness. G.S. was badly beaten by the angry crowd. K.K. jumped into his car, drove away, and called the Ózd police. Later he returned to the settlement. The police took him and G.S., handcuffed, to the police station. The Roma provided first aid to the injured Z.T.

The Borsod County Police has opened an investigation into the actions of the three guards. They are suspected of misusing their firearms, jeopardy while on duty, and disturbance of public order committed in a group. At the time of publication, more than three months after the incident, police had not yet concluded investigation.

(ERRC, Népszabadság)

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