Terrified Roma man in hiding as wife, son beg Ottawa for sympathy

Posted by admin on Apr 23rd, 2008

CBC. Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | 3:18 PM ET

TORONTO – A Roma refugee terrified of being sent back to Hungary remained in hiding Wednesday while his distraught wife and teenaged son appealed to the federal justice minister to reconsider his extradition. Ottawa has ordered Adolf Horvath, 51, deported to stand trial on what his family claims are trumped up fraud and extortion charges motivated
by his ethnic origins. Fearing extradition was imminent, Horvath vanished five weeks ago.

“I miss my dad,” Adam, 13, a Grade 8 student in Toronto, said as tears streamed down his face. “I have no future without my dad. I can’t live without him. If he goes to Hungary, he might be killed and I don’t want that.” Horvath has reason to be afraid of going back. He was repeatedly assaulted and threatened in Hungary, where abuse of Roma – sometimes referred to as Gypsies – is common. In one attack at home, skinheads stabbed and beat him badly in front of his horrified
wife Erika, 36, and Adam, who was then just 2 1/2.

“They almost killed him,” Erika Horvath said. “I have scars, too.”

Horvath fled Hungary for Canada in 1999. His wife and son were granted refugee status and Canadian immigration authorities in 2004 decided he faced “more than a mere possibility of persecution” based on his Roma
ethnicity.  As a result, Canada deemed him “a person in need of protection,” which would normally preclude his being returned to Hungary.

However, in response to a Hungarian government request for his extradition, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson decided he should be sent to face trial.

In making his decision, Nicholson relied in part on information from then-immigration minister Monte Solberg, who concluded Horvath did face a risk of abuse in his homeland. However, Solberg decided Horvath could rely on state protection in Hungary, and therefore could be extradited.

“It’s just ridiculous. It’s embarrassing that the Canadian government could make such a determination,” said Ronald Poulton, Horvath’s lawyer.

“If anything happens to him, I’m holding the government of Canada responsible.”

Laszlo Bakos, cultural attache with the Hungarian embassy in Ottawa, said he didn’t have first-hand knowledge of the alleged mistreatment but added Horvath should have no fear about going back.

“It’s not well founded,” Bakos said. “There are no torture cases in Hungary.”

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada gave no reasons in upholding lower court decisions that the extradition order was lawful. That means Horvath has exhausted any legal way of remaining in Canada, beyond a change of heart from the justice minister.

Rather than take his chances with extradition, he skipped bail, and went underground.

“Every human being would do that, right?” Erika Horvath said.

“Honestly, I don’t understand: If someone is getting protection from the country he’s coming from, why do you want to send him back?” she said.

Horvath has produced court documents that indicate the complainants in Hungary only made their allegations to avoid their own trouble with police. There are also new documents suggesting that Hungary requested extradition on a charge that was never laid.

The family is pleading with Nicholson to end the extradition proceedings.

“I still have nightmares where the police are beating my family up,” Adam, who drew a picture four years ago showing a police officer laughing as he was shooting his dad, wrote to the minister.

“I would be heartbroken for the rest of my life if he is gone.”

A Justice Department spokesman said Nicholson would have no comment.

Roma have frequently been persecuted in Europe, with tens of thousands dying at the hands of the Nazis.

Both the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International have noted Roma face mistreatment or even torture at the hands of police or racists.

Poulton, who called the risk of harm to his client in Hungary “extremely acute,” said he’s worried about the family.

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