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Roma fugitive facing deportation begs Ottawa to consider proof of innocence

TORONTO - A Roma fugitive whom Ottawa has conceded could face abuse in his native Hungary has emerged briefly from hiding to plead once again to be allowed to stay in Canada.


TORONTO - A Roma fugitive whom Ottawa has conceded could face abuse in his native Hungary has emerged briefly from hiding to plead once again to be allowed to stay in Canada.

In an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press, a forlorn and "very scared" Adolf Horvath said he fears he's at an emotional breaking point. "I'm very shocked about the situation right now. I don't know honestly how long I can do this," Horvath said from an undisclosed location in the Toronto area.

"It's just crazy. This is not a life."

Horvath, 51, a married father with a teenaged son, disappeared three months ago, just before the Supreme Court of Canada upheld his extradition to Hungary.

His wife Erika and son Adam, 13, have both pleaded with Ottawa to allow him to stay on the grounds he faces torture or abuse if sent back.

Since his disappearance, Horvath said he has telephoned his family only once.

"This is heartbreaking for me and I believe heartbreaking for them," he said. "I don't even know what I should say to them right now. I am not clear within my mind."

The Roma, sometimes referred to as Gypsies, have long faced abuse and persecution in Europe.

While the Hungarian embassy in Ottawa denies there are "torture cases" in Hungary, both the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International have noted the Roma often face mistreatment or torture at the hands of police or racists.

A Canadian immigration official handling his case decided Horvath did face the real prospect of abuse if returned to Hungary. As a result, Canada deemed him a "person in need of protection," which would normally preclude his deportation.

However, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson sided with then-immigration minister Monte Solberg, who decided the risk was minimal, and ordered his deportation.

Nicholson's spokeswoman Genevieve Breton noted that Horvath had availed himself of "all the protections afforded to him under the Extradition Act."

"Horvath absconded. He is therefore currently a fugitive from both Hungarian and Canadian justice."

Horvath and his family fled Hungary for Canada in 1999 and his wife and son were granted refugee status in 2002.

Hungary has sought Horvath's extradition on fraud and extortion charges he claims are trumped up, including one crime with which he was never charged.

The complainants recanted long ago, he said, adding he has documentation that proves his innocence but wasn't given a chance to put that evidence before the extradition courts.

"If somebody has proof that he did not commit those charges, then the courts and everybody should listen to that and check out the papers and proofs, then deliver a fair justice," Horvath said.

Horvath himself was stabbed and badly beaten by racist thugs at home in front of his horrified wife and young son a decade ago.

In an interview in April, Adam, a Grade 8 student in Toronto, wept as he talked about his fears for his father.

"I have no future without my dad," Adam said. "If he goes to Hungary, he might be killed and I don't want that."

Horvath, who previously had no criminal problems in Canada, acknowledged his decision to go underground has put him on the wrong side of the law.

"I am a fugitive, because I am trying to protect my freedom and my innocence. I am still a protected person but against who? Against what?" he said.

"I am in danger (if I go back). They probably are going to kill me or beat me."

 
 
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