Szeged court issues final guilty verdict in case of 10 immigrants charged with rioting

February 28, 2017

A Szeged court has reached a final guilty verdict in an appeal hearing against 10 immigrants for their involvement in clashes with police at the Hungarian-Serbian border near Röszke in September, 2015. Among the convicted are an ill, elderly woman, a man who walks with a cane, and a man in a wheelchair. The court ruled that all of the accused had illegally crossed Hungary’s border as participants in a riot, reports.

The court sentenced four of the defendants to one year and two months imprisonment and banned them from Hungary for four years. Another man, who was observed speaking to the crowd through a megaphone during the border clashes, was sentenced to two years imprisonment and banned for six years from the country. That man, 22-year-old Syrian national Yamen A., was the only defendant to appear at the sentencing, and reportedly wept upon hearing the verdict. He has been in custody for nearly 18 months.

Each of the 10 immigrants spent at least nine and a half months in custody while awaiting the verdict in last year’s first-degree trial. After the conclusion of that trial in July, the elderly and disabled defendants were placed in an open refugee camp in Bicske. On appeal, each of these defendants were sentenced to suspended prison sentences and expulsion from Hungary. The court acknowledged that the defendants had harmed no one and had not been violent, but declared that “their supportive physical presence” was sufficient to convict them.

Of those sentenced to prison sentences, Yamen A. is the only one still in custody in Hungary. Lawyers for the others told the court that their clients had all gone either to Belgium or to Germany, and asked the judge to refrain from imposing a ban on their clients from the country; such a ban applies not only to Hungary but to the entire area of the European Union. This means that the defendants face the risk of being expelled from the EU even if other members of their families have successfully settled in EU member states.

Civil organization the Migrant Solidarity Group has called for a protest of the court’s decision for Tuesday evening in Budapest’s Mikszáth Kálmán square. The group considers the trial to be “absurd and conceptual”, and called for protesters to “bring the Hungarian state to court for its crimes.”