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Hungary far-right party forms uniformed 'self-defense' group

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A far-right party in Hungary said Tuesday it was forming a uniformed "self-defense group" in the spirit of another vigilante group ordered to disband a decade ago after it intimidated Roma residents in the countryside.

Laszlo Toroczkai, head of the Our Homeland Movement, said the new National Legion would primarily focus on the "guarding of traditions" and teaching basic military skills. He says it would be available to provide help after natural disasters and to support people facing evictions from their homes.

The creation of the group has echoes with the Hungarian Guard, which was disbanded by a court ruling in 2009. The organization was closely linked to Jobbik, currently the largest opposition party in parliament, but which has shifted to more mainstream policies in recent years.

Toroczkai insisted that his new group, the National Legion, "is not the legal successor to the Hungarian Guard" but added that it "wants to continue its idealism and altruism." Toroczkai, who left Jobbik last year and accuses his former party of betraying the "national cause," said the National Legion would also serve as an umbrella organization for similar groups and has unspecified legal strategies to use if Hungarian authorities try to break up the group.

Vince Szava, head of the Hungarian National Ethnic Minorities Interest Protection Association, condemned the National Legion's formation and hoped it will be disbanded by the authorities. "We have to prevent the advance of parties and organizations with neo-Nazi ideas," said Szava, who is Roma.

Despite a police ban, Toroczkai said his party was still going to hold a march next week in the eastern city of Torokszentmiklos, where a Roma man is suspected of beating up several people in a series of unprovoked attacks.

Toroczkai said his party had appealed the ban in court and would go forward with the march in some manner even if their appeal is rejected. The National Legion's formal founding ceremony will take place June 1 in the southern city of Szeged.

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