Hundreds demonstrated for the release of Ahmed H., the Syrian man sentenced to ten years in prison for allegedly inciting migrants and threatening Hungarian officials at the Hungarian-Serbian border in Röszke on September 16 last year. Migszol (Migrants Solidarity Group) activists pointed out that he was fleeing terrorism with his family.
Of the ten migrants sentenced to date, Ahmed H. was the only one accused of committing an act of terrorism in the Battle of Röszke, which pitted unarmed refugees and asylum seekers against Hungarian riot police and counter-terrorism forces.
A number of people, including western journalists, were hurt in the clash.
The first-level court convicted Ahmed H. of committing a terrorist act with the “violent crime” of inciting a crowd to Hungary illegally and threatening Hungarian officials tasked with defending the border. The court also permanently banned Ahmed H. from Hungary.
Should the accused decide not to appeal the verdict, he will be eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence.
Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party and its chairman, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, greeted the decision as a kind of milestone in the fight against terror.
Not everyone agrees. On Thursday Amnesty International’s Gauri van Gulikot, the deputy director of its European operations, issued a statement:
“The decision reveals a misapplication of the facts and attests to two extremely worrying trends: on the one hand the mistaken application of measures taken against terrorism, and on the other the awful behavior of Hungary towards refugees and migrants.”
The protest was organized by the Migrants Solidarity Group, whose Facebook page rallied supporters by declaring:
“Let us protest together the unjust court decision which conflates Islam with terrorism, and which is capable of sentencing a man without any tangible evidence! Let us protest together against the use of the terrorist act crime category for political ends, which only serves fear and the incitement of hatred!”
Before several hundred demonstraters gathered in the Blaha Lujza square, Migszol activists pointed out the“extraordinary contradiction” between “eye-witness testimony and the lack of evidence.” They believe the accused was sentenced to ten years in prison for speaking to the police through a megaphone and “throwing three pieces of brick” because he is “a Muslim and a migrant.” According to the Hungarian news wire (MTI), Migszol activists took turns denouncing the Röszke trials as “show trials,” which, “together with the border fence, police force, and the introduction of strict measures, set an example of fear mongering.”
“If Ahmed is a terrorist, then I am also a terrorist”
Addressing the crowd, a Migszol activist from Syria called attention to the fact that it was terrorism from which Ahmed H. and his family were fleeing.
A message was read out from Amnesty employee Áron Demeter promising that his organization would do everything it could to support Ahmed’s cause and calling for the sentence to be struck down on appeal.
Krétakör founder Árpád Schilling told the crowd: “If Ahmed is a terrorist, then I am also a terrorist.” Placing responsibility on those working in the criminal justice system, he called on the country’s judges and prosecutors not to assist in this.
After the speeches, several hundred protestors, including a number of foreign activists, moved to the Madách square, chanting “Freedom for Ahmed” and “Today Ahmed, tomorrow you,” and blowing whistles, shaking rattles, and beating drums, reports index.
Upon reaching the Madách square, Ahmed H. supporters came into contact with a group of protestors demonstrating for the release of György Budaházy, leader of the radical right-wing organization “Arrows of the Hungarians.”
The two groups were kept separate from one another by a police cordon and no incidents were reported.
Ahmed H. was the tenth migrant to be sentenced over Röszke and the only one charged with terrorism. Consequently, he was the only one to receive so severe a sentence.