Second-instance court in Hungary rejects appeal by police officers

15 July 1997

Hungarian dailies reported on May 27 that a second-instance court had upheld the lower court's finding that two police officers were guilty of wrong-doing in connection with a case of alleged ill-treatment of a Romani man.

The incident, which took place in March 1995, involved a Romani man named József Pánki whom police in the village of Fajsz, in Bács-Kiskun County in southcentral Hungary, had approached near a village supermarket in connection with the theft of a hen. The three policemen involved allegedly told Mr. Pánki that if he himself had not committed the crime, he should be able to telt them who did, since he is a Gypsy. The three policemen then assaulted Mr. Pánki, repeatedly kicking him in the stomach and the chest. They also threatened to kill Mr. Pánki if he attempted to file a complaint against them.

An initial trial took place in the town of Baja. Prosecutors original ly charged the policemen with "forced confession", a crime which carries penalty of between two and eight years imprisonment, but later brought a misdemeanour "use of force in the course of official procedure" charge, punish able only by fines. Four people testified to having witnessed the beating. A court hearing held at the location of the incident in Fajsz on October 28, 1996, was attended by several hundred villagers bearing banners which read, "Equal rights to Hungarians as well!" and "We want order in the village!" The first instance court read verdicts in January 1997, finding alt three of the policemen guilty as charged.

The second instance court, ruling on May 26 in Kecskemét, upheld the lower court decision in the case of two of the officers, and ruled that the third had acted as an abettor to the crime. The two primary defendants were fined 20,000 and 15,000 HUF (approximately 110 and 85 USD) respectively. None of the officers was suspended from duty. (NEKI)


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