Hungarian Roma flee homes fearing vigilante attacks

Fri Apr 22, 2011 4:55pm GMT

By Marton Dunai

GYONGYOSPATA, Hungary (Reuters) - Hundreds of Roma residents fled from a village in northern Hungary fearing attacks by right-wing vigilantes Friday but the government denied it was an emergency evacuation.

A vigilante group called Vedero (Defence Force) said it had set up a training camp in the area to hold exercises during the Easter weekend, but denied trying to provoke Roma residents.

Aladar Horvath, leader of the Roma Civil Rights Movement, said 276 women and children were evacuated Friday from Gyongyospata, about 90 km east of Budapest.

Gyula Racz, a 32-year-old local resident, told Reuters that he, like many others, had sent his wife and children to Budapest to avoid trouble.

"Let them have a calm Easter as the gossip here is that there will be lots of men in uniform," he said. Vedero members often wear trademark uniforms of camouflage and red berets.

But Peter Szijjarto, the Hungarian prime minister's spokesman, was quoted as saying by the MTI news agency that reports of an emergency evacuation were "quite clearly a lie."

He was quoted as saying that people's departure was part of a vacation organised with the help of the Red Cross.

Friction between Roma and the rest of population is endemic. More than a half-dozen Roma were killed in a string of attacks in 2008 and 2009. A group of men accused in those killings went on trial in Budapest earlier this month.   Continued...

<p>A young man takes part in a right wing demonstration in Hajduhadhaz, April 17, 2011. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo</p>
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