Were Hungarian extremists planning a terrorist attack in Romania?

At the end of 2015, Romanian authorities arrested two Hungarian far-right activists associated with the nationalist and irredentist Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (HVIM), accusing them of planning bombings for Romania’s national holiday on December 1st, 2015. Also known as Great Union Day (Ziua Marii Uniri), Romanians recall the day in 1918, when the lands of Transylvania came under Romania’s control, following the demise of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In 1918, the region had an ethnic Romanian majority (54%), but also a large Hungarian minority population (32%), which certainly did not fare well when it found itself in a hostile successor state, and one where the majority recalled the magyarization (assimilation) efforts of the old Kingdom of Hungary. As such, Romania’s national holiday offers little that ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania can celebrate.

Romanian authorities – notably the prosecutor’s office (DIICOT – Direcția de Investigare a Infracțiunilor de Criminalitate Organizata si Terorism) arrived at the home of Zoltán Szőcs, the president of HVIM’s Transylvanian chapter, where they searched his house and detained him, transporting the far-right Hungarian activist to Bucharest for police questioning. Mr. Szőcs remains under arrest in a Romanian jail. DIICOT charges that a handful of HVIM activists were planning to detonate a bomb in the Hungarian-majority town of Kézdivásárhely (Târgu Secuiesc) on Romania’s national holiday. István Beke, HVIM’s local leader in Kézdivásárhely, had been arrested earlier in December, also for being part of the alleged terrorist plot. 

According to the Romanian prosecutor’s office, Mr. Szőcs had incited Mr. Beke and other activists to produce home-made bombs, which would be detonated during the national holiday.

István Beke and Zoltán Szőcs, replacing a street sign with one bearing the name of World War II convicted war criminal, Albert Wass.

István Beke and Zoltán Szőcs, replacing a street sign with one bearing the name of World War II convicted war criminal, Albert Wass.

HVIM’s Transylvanian president is on record as having stated that Hungarian majority Székelyföld (Szeklerland) is not Romania, adding that HVIM’s goals can only be reached through a blood sacrifice. According to the charge, Mr. Szőcs instructed activists in Kézdivásárhely to make a bomb, and then swiftly left the country after these initial telephone discussions. Mr. Szőcs returned to Romania on December 20th and began contacting those involved in the alleged plot, to try to coordinate their answers, if arrested or interrogated by authorities.  Mr. Szőcs was himself arrested  shortly thereafter.

HVIM activists assert that the DIICOT found nothing in the homes that were searched by authorities, other than books by the World War II convicted war criminal Albert Wass, Hungarian flags and firework paraphernalia. The prosecutor, however, charges HVIM’s leadership with having “planned violent actions against Romanian citizens and their property.” The prosecutor also accused HVIM of being separatists, with the end goal of “re-establishing Greater Hungary” and separating Székelyföld from Romania.

Gábor Vona, leader of the far-right Jobbik party, called on Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee to hold a special session on the “series of anti-Hungarian political, legal actions, which aim to instill fear” and to also request that Romania’s ambassador in Budapest be called in to testify. Mr. Vona called the charges against the President of HVIM’s Transylvanian chapter, and also the charges against the HVIM leader in Kézdivásárhely “unfounded.”

Romania’s justice system and the country’s democratic institutions certainly have their failings, but there is no doubt that many of HVIM’s activists, including those in leadership positions, are skinheads and neo-Nazis, who would likely not shy away from violence and who have long embraced extremely violent polemics.

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