János Petrás, front-man for the far-right nationalist rock band Kárpátia, has been banned from performing in Romania, and in addition has been fined 9000 Lej (approximately 2000 euros) for expressing what a Romanian appeals court ruled was “hate speech” at a concert held in the Transylvania city of Csikszereda in 2014.
Kárpátia, which was formed in 2003, is a far-right Hungarian “national rock” group. Its songs, some of which call for an “unblemished nation”, often draw their lyrics from folk songs and traditional military tunes. The band has been described in the press as “the house band of the extreme-right Jobbik party.” In the past, the band has participated in a march organized by the since-banned paramilitary group Magyar Gárda (the Hungarian Guard). In 2013, Petrás become the center of political controversy when he received the Hungarian Gold Cross of Merit from the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. You can listen to some of Kárpátia’s songs below:
According to the Romanian court, at a concert held on June 6th, 2014, Petrás sang songs and made statements to the crowd that violated Romania’s laws banning “the promotion of personality cults of individuals responsible for crimes against humanity, as well as of fascist, racist, or xenophobic ideologies.” According to prosecutors, through his songs and comments, the Kárpátia singer called on Hungarians to battle on the model of Russians in Crimea in order to regain territories lost following the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, in which Hungary ceded two-thirds of its territory and roughly 64% of its population (including over 30% of ethnic Hungarians) to neighboring countries. In addition, Romanian authorities claimed that he called for armed battle, criticized the contents of the Treaty of Trianon, and described Romanians as oppressive.
Petrás, who was first charged in December 2015, has proclaimed his innocence, arguing that every Hungarian has a right to express his opinion regarding Trianon. In addition, he claimed that the songs he performed were not written by Kárpátia, but rather were historical military songs that praised the heroism of Hungarian soldiers.
Responding to the Romanian court’s ruling in a statement, Jobbik (which has, in the past several years, worked to shed its image as a far-right, anti-Semitic, racist party) stood by Petrás, calling the ruling “anti-Hungarian.”
Going further, the party, which is currently gearing up for parliamentary elections this coming spring, claimed that Petrás was not expressing racist or hateful views, but was rather
“Proudly standing by his Hungarian identity, proclaiming the unity of the Hungarian nation, and paying respect to heroes who have fallen in defense of the Hungarian homeland.”