28/02/2008 20:32 - (SA)
Bucharest - About 200 Gypsies in a Romanian village fought each other with knives and other weapons after the family of a 14-year-old bridegroom cancelled his wedding to a 12-year-old girl, authorities said. Villagers in Sinesti, 30km east of Bucharest, clashed on Wednesday, using swords, knives and hunting rifles with rubber bullets, police said. They did not report injuries, but the daily newspaper Adevarul said 12 people were hurt. The legal age for marriage in Romania is 18, but the law allows Romanians to marry at 16 with parental consent.
The country generally tolerates arranged child weddings among Gypsies, also called Roma, whose ancient traditions call for the marriage of children once they reach puberty. The fighting at Sinesti broke out initially between two families, apparently because the bride's family was angry over cancellation of the wedding, police said. The fighting then spread to other village residents.
One man was detained and will appear in a Bucharest court later on Thursday, charged with attempted murder and destroying property, prosecutor Maximilian Balasescu said. Four other people are being investigated for alleged attempted murder and 20 others are accused of causing a public disturbance, Balasescu said. In 2003, the 12-year-old daughter of a Gypsy leader stormed out of her wedding ceremony sparking a national debate about forced marriages between Gypsy adolescents, and leading to criticism from some European Union officials. Romania has since joined the EU. Police said they will step up their presence in Sintesti, most of whose population is Roma. Romania officially has 500 000 Gypsies although there are believed to be about twice that number. Many do not declare themselves to be Roma, due to widespread prejudice.