Hungary's Roma bury victims in emotional funeral

TATARSZENTGYORGY, Hungary Tue Mar 3, 2009 12:08pm EST

1 of 5. A mourner holds up a picture of Robert Csorba, 27, and his son Robert Jr., 5, during their funeral in Tatarszentgyorgy, 65 km (40 miles) southeast of Budapest March 3, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Karoly Arvai

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TATARSZENTGYORGY, Hungary (Reuters) - Thousands, mostly Roma, joined the funeral procession Tuesday of a young boy and his father who were shot dead last week in the latest in a series of attacks on Roma in Hungary.

A crowd of about 5,000, which also included politicians from parliamentary parties and civil rights activists, gathered around the graves of the two victims in the village of Tatarszentgyorgy, 65 km (40 miles) southeast of Budapest.

Black-clad mourners wept and when the coffin was lowered into the grave in the small hillside cemetery, the world-famous 100-member Gypsy Symphony Orchestra started to play.

"We seek the forgiveness of the mourning family and...our Gypsy brethren whom for 500 years we have owed an embrace," Hungarian Methodist pastor Gabor Ivanyi, who is not Roma, said in a speech. "We are deeply moved and ashamed people."

The killings last Monday were the latest in a series of more than a dozen attacks on Roma in Hungary in which 7 people have died over the past year.

Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom said Saturday economic crisis had created an urgent need for Hungary and other east European countries to show more understanding for Roma.

It was not known whether the attack was racially motivated and police have so far failed to track down the perpetrators, but Roma community leaders said it bore similarities to other attacks on Roma in other parts of the country.

The boy, who police say was 5 years old, and his father Robert Csorba were shot dead as they were trying to escape their house, which had been set on fire. Two other children were injured in the blaze.

The Roma community is Hungary's largest minority making up 5 to 7 percent of the population of 10 million.

PROTECTION

There is a growing resentment against the Roma, also known as gypsies, as the economic crisis deepens and jobs are lost. The Roma often remain on the margins, lacking jobs and proper education and living in deep poverty. Critics say they take advantage of the welfare state.

The strengthening of the far-right over the past two years, which fights what it says is a rise in "Roma crime," has also contributed to a rise in antagonism, activists say.

The village of Tatarszentgyorgy, which has about 1,900 residents, has been shocked by the attack.

"We still cannot comprehend what happened and this sentiment rules in the entire village," a Roma couple said.

Peter Ignacz, 50, who arrived from Szolnok in the east of Hungary with around 30 members of his family and is also of Roma origin, says Roma do not get any protection and are afraid.

"This (attack) is totally outrageous, and to be honest, Roma people are afraid," he said.

(Reporting by Marton Dunai, Writing by Krisztina Than)

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