Romanian court hands down a scandalous decision: Roma woman who was beaten up by a minibus driver has to pay a fine
A Roma woman who was beaten by a minibus driver in 2019 in Zalău, Romania, has been fined 1,800 lei [EUR 370]. She also has to pay court costs in the amount of 800 lei [EUR 165] because she has been found guilty of disturbing the peace and public order.
The minibus driver who assaulted her, including with racist rhetoric, has been given a suspended prison sentence. According to the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the verdict convicts the Romanian justice system of racism.
"The twisted verdict of the court just compounds the scandal and serves as a damning indictment of a criminal justice system that is racist to its core," Advocacy & Policy Manager Bernard Rorke says of the verdict on the ERRC's website. "This appalling judgement is yet another example of how systemic antigypsyism skews outcomes for Romani victims of racially-motivated violence and denies them justice."
In 2019, shocking video footage went viral of the minibus driver brutally beating the Roma woman holding a baby in her arms with a stick (it was later ascertained to have been a mop handle). The beating was witnessed by another child of the young Roma woman as well.
Florica Moldovan, who was 25 at the time, wanted to get onto the minibus with her two children. The driver, Marius Filip, an ex-police officer, refused her.
When Moldovan protested, Filip jumped out of the minibus and used the mop handle to beat her in full view of all the other passengers. As journalist Simona Voicu reported for the Libertatea newspaper, the mother of five had taken two of her children to the hospital in Zalău for treatment that Easter Thursday, where a doctor had prescribed them medicine and sent them home.
Moldovan did not have any money with which to buy the prescribed medicine, but the pharmacist took pity on the children and paid for their pills and syrups himself. With one child in her arms and the other at her side, Moldovan headed for the station to catch the minibus home.
Filip's racist assault on Moldovan required four days of medical treatment. Filip subsequently admitted his guilt, but Moldovan insisted she was innocent and said she had become not just a victim of an attack, but of discrimination on an ethnic basis, asserting that although there were open seats on the minibus, the driver refused to take her because she is a Roma woman.
Eyewitnesses to the incident confirmed Moldovan's account. Despite the other passengers' testimonies and the video recording, the court sided with the driver's assertion that Moldovan's Roma nationality played no role in his behavior.
The court called such a conclusion that his behavior had been motivated by bias "mere speculation". Moldovan also described receiving racist abuse from the operator of the emergency number 112 when she called for help, but the court found that "this circumstance is not the subject of the case under trial".
The court ruled, on the contrary, that Moldovan's reaction to being denied entry to the microbus had been "exaggerated" and that the expressions she had used to protest had incited "fear and indignation". The court even stated that Moldovan had basically incited the conflict through her reaction to being refused service.
Her frustration at being forbidden to get on the minibus "cannot justify its explosive manifestation", the court ruled. The case will be heard by an appeals court in Cluj this fall.
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