Six-month prison sentence for vandalizing Hungarian road signs

The Romanian man from Bacău (Bákó in Hungarian) who sprayed black paint over the Hungarian inscriptions on road signs was sentenced to six months in prison by the Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc) Court. The signs marked the entry or exit to several ethnic Hungarian settlements in Szeklerland. The perpetrator, who committed his acts in early January of last year, was charged only for vandalism, while inciting hatred was left out of the indictment.

Hármasfalu/Trei Sate entrance sign was vandalized in January 2020. Image source: Facebook

In January 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, somebody spray-painted over the Hungarian inscriptions on the road signs of several Szekler settlements in Hargita (Harghita) and Maros (Mureș) counties, where the vast majority of inhabitants are ethnic Hungarians. The then unknown person sprayed over the Hungarian inscriptions in Székelyudvarhely (where 92 percent of the inhabitants are ethnic Hungarians), Máréfélva/Satu Mare (97 percent ethnic Hungarians), Székelyszentlélek/Bisericani (98 percent ethnic Hungarians), Csíkszereda/Miercurea Ciuc (78 percent ethnic Hungarians) and Hármasfalu/Trei Sate (84 percent ethnic Hungarians).

Following the examination of the CCTV camera footage, the perpetrator was identified and caught by the local police within 24 hours. The 30-year-old I.G.I. from Bacău was faced with the charges, and he admitted his actions.

Besides the obvious vandalism, the prosecution was at first

also investigating suspected discrimination and incitement

to hatred.

But then the Székelyudvarhely Prosecutor’s Office found no justification for the latter charge, so it was not even included in the indictment. The Szekler Watch Foundation did not agree with this decision and asked for the indictment to be revised to include the suspicion of discrimination and incitement to hatred, but their request was both rejected by the Prosecutor’s Office and by the Székelyudvarhely Court.

vandalized_Székelyudvarhely/Odorheiu Secuiesc_town_exit_sign
Székelyudvarhely/Odorheiu Secuiesc town exit sign was vandalized in January 2020. (Image source: Facebook)

In his reply, the public prosecutor replied to the complaint filed by the rights protection organization led by Zsolt Árus that:

according to the Prosecutor’s Office judgment, the perpetrator was not motivated by hatred towards Hungarians nor by prejudice when spraying the

town signs; it was a reaction

to a previous conflict of his with

a few people.

At the same time, his action was not followed by any calls for hate, violence or discrimination against the Hungarian minority, reads the public prosecutor’s justification. After the Prosecutor’s Office, the Székelyudvarhely Court also rejected the foundation’s request because, according to their explanation, the crime of incitement to hatred or discrimination assumes the presence of the group toward which the hatred or discrimination is directed. And in this case, this did not happen.

The Szekler Watch Foundation turned to the European Court of Human Rights (also known as the Strasbourg Court) with the case. Their complaint has been filed.

Máréfalva/Satu Mare entrance sign was vandalized in January 2020. Image source: Facebook

Six-month sentence

So finally, the criminal trial began for the charge of vandalism. Although last January the police said that the perpetrator could face two years in prison, this did not happen either. The verdict was postponed twice, and then, on June 30,

the court sentenced the ex-convict to six months in prison and obligated him to pay a RON 1,899 (EUR 385) fine to the National Road Infrastructure Administration Company.

The decision is not legally binding and can be appealed to the Hargita County Court.


Title image: Székelyszentlélek exit sign was vandalized in January 2020. (Image source: Facebook) 



Author: Attila Szoó