On Wednesday, a first-level court in Szeged upheld the conviction of Ahmed Hamed, a Syrian national who was tried under terrorism charges for his role in clashes between asylum-seekers and police at the Serbian border on September 16, 2015.
The highly-politicized case comes as a win for the Hungarian government, which is framing the upcoming election as a referendum on migration. A judge recently used this case to illustrate how the government – through its vast pro-government media empire – can pressure judges into ruling in accordance with the government’s position.
The 41 year-old father of two was accused of terrorism-related crimes (throwing objects) and unlawfully crossing the Hungarian border after the infamous Battle at Röszke on September 16, 2015, when Hungarian commandos clashed with asylum-seekers on the Hungary-Serbia border.
Hamed was first convicted of the charges in 2016, and was sentenced to 10 years. In June 2017, an appeals court ordered a retrial, ruling that not all available evidence had been considered during the first-level trial.
During the retrial, Hamed’s lawyers argued that he only threw a few objects, but the prosecution countered by classifying the act as an act of terrorism, thereby enhancing the gravity of the alleged crime. Moreover, prosecutors tried to prove that Hamed incited the crowd and threatened the law enforcement.
The court has now sentenced Hamed to 7 years in prison, after which he will be barred from entering Hungary for ten years.
Critics of the decision point out that as an official resident of Cyprus the accused was entitled to be allowed to enter Hungary as the bearer of a Schengen passport.
A number of journalists were assaulted and detained by Hungarian commandos when the violence broke out. One photojournalist, Warren Richardson, spoke to us about his experiences. According to Richardson, the violence was ratcheted-up by the commandos on the scene.