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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Hungary condemns cemetery attack
Uprooted gravestones at Kozma St cemetery Budapest
New graves suffered most damage
Political and civic leaders in Hungary have strongly condemned an attack on a Jewish cemetery in Budapest which left some 130 gravestones damaged.

The vandalism occurred at the Kozma Street Jewish cemetery on the eastern outskirts of the capital.

The damage was discovered after the cemetery reopened following a two-day Jewish holiday.

Reports said many of the graves had been damaged, but the stones had not been defaced with racist symbols.

Gusztav Zoltai, the head of the National Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary, said the perpetrators had focused on heavy marble and granite stones, mainly in the cemetery's new section where burials have been taking place for the last five years.

Reward offered

The attack has been sharply condemned by Hungarian parliamentary parties and the country's leading politicians.

Budapest police and the Budapest Mayor's Office offered rewards totalling 1.5 million forints (4,022; $7,500; 6,049 euros) for information leading to the identification of the culprits.

This is clearly a racist act. This is particularly serious because it is a form of desecration
Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky

President Ferenc Madl said in a statement, during a visit to Vienna, that "those who are able to smear the memory of the deceased do not respect living human beings either".

Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky said it had been an act of racism.

"We are talking about carved Jewish graves, a large number of graves. This cannot be accidental," he said. "This is clearly a racist act. This is particularly serious because it is a form of desecration."

He called on the department of the city council responsible for cemeteries to help Hungary's Jewish association restore the damaged graves.

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany described the act as "mean and inhumane" and a crime against Jewish people.

Concern

Interior Minister Monika Lamperth visited the cemetery. She said the attack had been committed "in the name of ideas which should be on the rubbish dump of history".

Ms Lamperth added that the vandalism was the most extensive the cemetery had suffered. An attack in November 2000 left 61 graves smashed at the site.

Media reports said graves at Jewish cemeteries elsewhere in Hungary have been desecrated on 13 occasions since 2000 when a group of young people aged 13-17 damaged 106 graves in Nagyatad in the southwest.

A US State Department report on religious freedom in 2004 expressed concern at anti-Semitic incidents in Hungary, where less than 1% of the population is Jewish.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.


SEE ALSO:
Vigil held after graveyard attack
11 Jun 05 |  Manchester
Racist gang attack Jewish graves
09 Jun 05 |  Manchester
French Jewish cemetery attacked
10 Aug 04 |  Europe
NZ Jewish graves attacked again
06 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Hungary
22 May 05 |  Country profiles


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