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Hungary to Pay Compensation for Bungling Probe of Murders

Hungary will compensate the families of victims of one the country’s worst racially motivated serial murders since World War II, citing shortcomings in a probe into the deaths of six ethnic Roma, including a five-year-old boy and his father.

An inquiry will “probably find” that law enforcement officials “committed errors or omission,” including ones for which they may bear “criminal responsibility,” Human Resources Minister Zoltan Balog told reporters yesterday.

The murders in 2008 and 2009 took place in four different locations and focused attention on racism against the mostly impoverished community of Roma, or Gypsies, Hungary’s largest minority. Three Roma were initially arrested in 2008 for one of the crimes and spent 11 months in custody before charges were dropped, Index news website said on Aug. 6.

“We know specifically that the life of the last victim may have been saved had the secret service and the police worked together properly,” Balog said.

A Budapest court on Aug. 6 sentenced three men to life imprisonment without parole for murder while a fourth was sentenced to 13 years. The sentences can be appealed.

The crimes took place in rural areas, several of them during the night. The father and son were murdered while they were trying to escape their house after it was set ablaze with Molotov cocktails. Another was shot in bed. A fourth person was shot to death while leaving for work, while the fifth and sixth victims were shot in an attack while their home was set ablaze.

A team of 120 police officers hunted the perpetrators before arresting the suspects in August 2009. Police said the killers had been planning three other attacks.

The radical nationalist Jobbik party became the second-largest parliamentary group in 2010 after campaigning against what it billed as “Roma crime” as inter-ethnic tensions escalated during the country’s second recession in four years.

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