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Hungary retrial highlights 'vilification of refugees'

Hungary retrial highlights 'vilification of refugees'
From Al Jazeera - January 12, 2018

Hungarian courts have extended the retrial of a Syrian refugee who was convicted of "an act of terror" after an altercation with police on the Hungary-Serbia border crossing in 2015.

The refugee, identified as Ahmed H, was give a 10-year prison sentence in November 2016 after a conviction based on Hungary's anti-terrorism law - which Amnesty International calls "vague" - for throwing stones at Hungarian police, using a megaphone to speak to the crowd of refugees on the border and allegedly helping to open a gate that allowed refugees to cross the frontier.

The trial will resume on March 14, with a verdict expected on March 19. The verdict was originally expected to be delivered on Friday.

Eda Seyhan, Amnesty International's campaigner on counter-terrorism in Europe, told Al Jazeera over the phone from Hungary that his conviction was an indicator of the anti-refugee stance of the Hungarian government.

"It's important to note that these things are very mixed, the vilification of refugees and migrants and the ramping up of anti-terrorism laws," Seyhan said.

In June, an appeals court ordered a retrial, saying that not all evidence may have been considered in the first trial.

Ahmed H was attempting to help his elderly parents leave Syria and cross into the European Union through Hungary's border with Serbia at the Roszke crossing, near the Hungarian city of Szeged.

In videos of the incident, the refugee and father, who was residing in Cyprus with his family at the time of the crossing, is seen telling police with a microphone that the asylum seekers "came in peace" and would not hurt officers.

Eventually, Hungarian police responded with tear gas and a water cannon. Many of the asylum seekers then threw objects at police.

According to videos shown in court, Ahmed H admitted to throwing two stones. However, it is unclear whether the Hungarian court will consider stone-throwing to be "an act of terror".

Much of the evidence being reviewed at the trial consists of video footage and witness testimony from police officers.

"None of the witness statements substantiate the charge," Seyhan said.

'Terrorist' photo gallery

Hungary's ruling Fidesz party has maintained a hardline stance against refugees and migration since refugees began arriving in larger numbers in 2013 and 2014.

Indefinite detention

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