An appeals court in Szeged dismissed on Thursday the first-instance ruling concerning a Syrian man convicted under terrorism charges for his role in a riot by migrants at Hungary’s Röszke border crossing with Serbia in the autumn of 2015. The appellate court has ordered a new trial.
In the primary ruling passed by a Szeged court in November 2016, Ahmed H was sentenced to serve ten years in prison for terrorist activities involving illegal border crossing as well as incitement to violence in the context of a riot.
he court in southern Hungary also ruled that at least two thirds of his term must be served before permanent expulsion from the country.
As part of his conviction, Ahmed H was sentenced for using a megaphone to direct migrants who were hurling rocks at police on the Hungarian border.
The prosecution appealed for a longer prison term while the defence appealed for a dismissal of the terrorism charge and a reduced sentence in respect of the other charges.
Judge Erik Mezőlaki said in his reasoning that the first-instance court was supposed to review and weigh the pieces of evidence presented to it both separately and as a whole. Instead the court handed down its verdict without clarifying the basis for considering or dismissing the individual pieces of evidence, Mezőlaki said. The evidence and arguments on which it based its verdict were also not made clear, he added. The judge said this error on the part of the first-instance court had had a fundamental effect on the legal qualification of the defendant’s actions.
Following the ruling, the government office chief said outside interference around the case was an indication of European “pressure” on Hungary. Referring to Ahmed H as “an alleged political refugee holding seven passports and owning a villa in Cyprus”, János Lázár insisted that the Left in the European Parliament had “sided” with the defendant, “putting him on a pedestal and presenting him as the ideal refugee”. He also noted that the first-instance ruling was cited in a recent resolution of the EP as a point of criticism of the Hungarian government.
Péter Szijjártó, the Hungarian foreign minister, said at the end of May this year that the Hungarian government would appeal to international organisations against a recent resolution by the European Parliament putting the man under its protection. The EP, he said, “took sides with a terrorist rather than with Hungary and its police who had been under attack”, adding that the government would send its appeal to the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and NATO.
In December last year the US State Department issued a statement expressing concern over the “prosecution and sentencing in Hungary of Ahmed Hamed based on a broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘terrorism’.” It urged the Hungarian government “to conduct a transparent investigation, with input from independent civil society groups.”
Amnesty International welcomed the appeal court’s ruling in a statement, referring to it as “an important step towards justice” for Ahmed H.