Hungary rejects US concerns over sentencing of Ahmed Hamed

December 7, 2016

02_roszke_cz

“The United States is concerned by the prosecution and sentencing in Hungary of Ahmed Hamed, a Syrian native involved in clashes between police and asylum-seekers near the town of Röszke at the Hungary-Serbia border in September 2015, based on a broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘terrorism.’

We urge the government of Hungary to conduct a transparent investigation, with input from independent civil society groups, into the events at Röszke and to review the cases of Mr. Hamed and those similarly convicted. We will continue to follow the case of Mr. Hamed closely.”

The State Department of the United States issued this statement yesterday in response to last week’s conviction in a Szeged court of Syrian citizen Ahmed Hamed, who was tried under terrorism charges for his role in clashes between asylum seekers and police at Hungary’s border with Serbia on September 16 last year. Hamed was convicted of all charges and sentenced to 10 years in a Hungarian prison, and permanently banned from Hungary thereafter. He will only be eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Press secretary for the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tamás Menczer responded to the statement, declaring, “It is outrageous and unacceptable that the State Department of the United States would comment on decisions of a Hungarian court.”

While it is perhaps possible in the United States for the State Department to call on the government to interfere in a court’s decision, it does not work that way in Hungary, the statement continues. “Moreover, in Hungary it is not the so-called civil society groups, but the courts that decide on the fates of those who commit crimes, and it will remain so regardless of whether the State Department of the United States likes it or not.”

Menczer found it “strange” that the US State Department “which systematically lectures the world about the importance of the separation of power is now calling on the government to intercede in the court’s affairs.”  

The government spokesman added that “Hungary will never call on American courts to account for sentences given to terrorists who attack police.”

The State Department is far from the only voice of criticism for the court’s decision. Amnesty International deputy director of European operations Gauri van Gulikot issued a statement on the ruling, saying, “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.”