Prison sentence for migrants of the Battle of Röszke

July 2, 2016

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The Szeged District Court delivered its judgment in the case of 10 migrants crossing into Hungary illegally at the time of the Battle of Röszke. Three of them – an old woman, a man in a wheelchair and another one using a walking stick – received a suspended sentence, the others all have to go to jail for their actions.

One of the accused received a prison sentence of three years (he was the man speaking to the crowd with the help of a megaphone), the others received one year two months. All of the accused but the old woman have to leave Hungary. She has already been officially recognized as a legal asylum-seeker.

Soon to be set free

The trial of the ten migrants has been going on for nine and a half months, during which time all of them were held in custody. This means they will probably soon be set free, as according to Hungarian law the time spent in preliminary custody is taken into account, writes Hungarian news website Index.hu. None of them took part in any violent events, they were charged with illegal border crossing while participating in riots.

The ten – nine Syrian, one Iraqi – were members of the crowd waiting to enter Hungary. When police operations started on 16th September 2015, they saw the open gates and walked over to the territory of Hungary from Serbia. No one knows why, out of hundreds, these 10 were taken into custody and charged.

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Asylum-seekers were beaten and taken into custody

Protests at court

Lawyers of the migrants, some from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, asked them to be acquitted by the Szeged District Court. Human right activists organized a protest outside the building to demand their release. Their fliers read “freedom to the Röszke 11”.

The same trial took a bizarre turn this April when the judge ordered a new translation of the defendants’ testimony after determining that the official translation contained numerous mistakes, some apparently on purpose.

The 2015 Battle of Röszke pitted Hungarian riot police and counter-terrorism commandoes against migrants, including women and children. A number of young men threw rocks and debris at riot police after Hungarian officials used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of migrants upset over finding their entry to Hungary blocked.

In a separate trial, one of the migrants, Ahmed H. was charged with terrorism.

At the time of the clashes, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in his fortnightly interview with Kossuth Rádió that he believed the riot was an “organized and armed attack,” that was organized and supported by the media and led in English and Arabic languages.