Tensions remain as Hungarian student claims Slovak police pressured her into retracting story

Hedviga Malinova, photo: CTK

Relations between Hungary and Slovakia have been strained to say the least lately, with tensions in large part sparked by a reported attack on a Hungarian student in Slovakia, after she was overheard speaking Hungarian on her mobile phone. In an unexpected turn, several weeks after the incident, Slovak officials announced the woman had admitted to inventing the story. But the student herself says Slovak police pressured her to say she had made the whole thing up. Radio Slovakia's Anca Dragu reports on this rather murky story.

Slovak Minister of Interior Robert Kalinak,  photo: CTK
On August the 25th Hedviga M.complained to the police that two men beat her in an apparent racist motivated attack. The 23 year old student said she was on her way to an exam and the two approached her when they heard her speaking in Hungarian. They allegedly shouted that she should speak only Slovak in Slovakia and began hitting her. They took her earrings and purse, and wrote "Hungarians should be thrown in the Danube" on her blouse. But on Tuesday the Minister of Interior, Robert Kalinak, presented a different version of the story.

"The police decided to close the enquiry because the girl lied. We have a graphologist's expert report proving that she herself wrote that slogan on the blouse, plus records from the phone company showing there were no phone calls from her mobile during the whole of the morning. She initially said she was attacked while speaking on her phone," said Kalinak during a press conference, which was also attended by the prime minister Robert Fico.

Hedviga Malinova,  photo: CTK
"Now you see how much energy the police had to invest in order to fight this attempt at manipulating public opinion. And all this for the sake of a girl who didn't study for her exam and was trying to find an excuse not to attend it. She put the Slovak state in a difficult situation. We were accused of nurturing extremism but there was no extremism involved in this case," said Fico.

The student, however, says her academic records can prove she is a good student. She appeared frail during a press conference at which she rejected the police report. She says she is seeing a psychiatrist who helps her remembering more details about the incident.

Prime Minister Robert Fico,  photo: CTK
"I didn't lie. I was attacked and the medical records prove it. How can someone say that I inflicted the wounds myself? The policemen put pressure on me to admit that I made everything up but it's not true," said Hedviga.

Bela Bugar, the chairman of the coalition of ethnic Hungarian parties reacted to the police report by expressing his doubts about the fairness of the whole investigation. One of the party's MPs offered to be Hedviga's lawyer and tried to re-open the enquiry. Bugar, who was accused by the Slovak foreign minister of being involved in a campaign to discredit Slovakia abroad, says he has the feeling the police were under political pressure when solving the case.

"Prime Minister Fico was so quick to praise the police for closing the enquiry in record time, almost two weeks. He wasn't so fast when asked to publicly condemn extremism, though," said Bugar.

Political analysts are wondering what will be the impact of Hedviga's case on future relations between Slovaks and Hungarians in Slovakia. The incident was only one in a row of extremist displays on both sides in the past three months, including racist posters during football games and videos circulating on the internet.