Justice in Orbán’s Hungary: The Ahmed H. case

As I was looking through my old posts to see my coverage of Ahmed H.’s trial for terrorism, which took place in 2016, I found to my astonishment that I hadn’t even mentioned the name of this Syrian man who received ten years for allegedly committing terrorism at the Serbian-Hungarian border. I have often been told that over the years the posts of Hungarian Spectrum can more or less serve as a timeline of Hungarian politics. I’m trying to cover all the important events, but, as is clear from this example, I don’t always succeed.

The omission is especially egregious because Ahmed’s alleged terrorism case was one of the pretexts for the government’s attempt to introduce a new category of emergencies that could be declared in the event of a “situation created by a terrorist threat.” Ahmed’s arrest and the subsequent charge of terrorism against him were followed by an unprecedented hate campaign against migrants. This Syrian man from Cyprus, where he has been living legally for the last ten years, became a symbol for all those vicious terrorists who want to overrun Hungary. The only problem with the Hungarian government’s plan was that the terrorism case against Ahmed H. was mighty weak.

Even if I missed covering the original trial, I can now make up for it, at least in part, by reporting on the ruling of the appellate court on June 15 and by recalling some of the events that led to the news that Ahmed has a second chance to receive a fair trial. The appellate court found the work of the court of first instance so flawed that the whole case must be retried–and not, as the judge made clear, by the same panel of judges.

Representatives of such civic organizations as Amnesty International and Migszol, a group formed at the time of the refugee crisis in Hungary in the summer of 2015, have been calling Ahmed H.’s trial a “conceptual show trial.” Looking through the available documents, one thing is sure. The Orbán government very much wanted to find someone guilty of terrorism. It needed such a verdict for its anti-migrant drive. Ahmed seemed to fit the bill. He had a bullhorn and was talking to the crowd in several languages, including English. He allegedly incited the crowd to violence, repeatedly threatened the security forces, and then joined the disturbances that took place on September 16, 2015. He was also charged with illegally crossing the border. On November 30 Ahmed H. was sentenced to a 10-year prison term.

The trial was a mockery of judicial fairness. The judge refused to hear the testimony of more than 20 defense witnesses and ignored the fact that the prosecution’s main witness, a police officer, was not certain of the accused’s identity. It was true that Ahmed threw a couple of items during the melee, but there was no proof that he hit anyone. He claimed that he tried to calm the people. But even if he was guilty of all the crimes he was accused of, did Ahmed H. deserve 10 years? Gauri van Gulik, deputy director of Amnesty International for Europe, said that “to sentence Ahmed to 10 years in prison for a terrorist act is absurd.”

The spokesman for Fidesz expressed the party’s delight after the initial verdict was announced. He repeated the slogan on the billboards: “every migrant must learn that, once in the country, he must honor the laws of Hungary.” But those outside the circle of Fidesz and its followers were stunned. The United States asked the Hungarian government to conduct a transparent investigation of the incidents at the border that would include an independent civic organization. The government should review Ahmed’s case. As far as the United States is concerned, it will follow the case’s future handling, the statement promised. It didn’t take long for the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to respond, telling the United States that criticizing the work of the court may be allowed in the United States but not in Hungary. Moreover, in Hungary it is not the civic organizations that decide on the guilt or innocence of people but the courts. The ministry spokesman ended his harangue by saying that “we can promise one thing: Hungary will never demand an explanation of U.S. court decisions on terrorists attacking American policemen.”

A week before Ahmed H.’s case was to be continued at the Szeged Appellate Court, the Hungarian media reported that Péter Bárándy, one of the best lawyers in Hungary who was minister of justice between 2002 and 2004 in the Medgyessy government, was going to be Ahmed’s defense lawyer. (There is some indirect evidence that Bárándy had been working on the case since at least March.)

Ahmed H. has had four lawyers, including Bárándy. First, he had a court-appointed lawyer. Then a local Szeged lawyer took over who, according to a member of Migszol, “during the trial sat quietly and wasted not one word in defense of his client.” Two weeks before the end of the trial he quit. The accused got another court-appointed lawyer who apparently did at least try to defend his client, unfortunately without much success.

The news of Péter Bárándy’s appearance as the lawyer for the defense was not exactly welcome news in government circles, but it did give Fidesz leaders an opportunity to connect “terrorism” with its alleged supporters, the Hungarian liberals and socialists. In fact, Gyula Budai, the man who in 2010 was entrusted by Viktor Orbán to bring all socialist and liberal “criminals” to justice, gave a press conference in which he charged that the Soros organizations, Brussels, and the socialists are working hand in hand to free Ahmed H. and therefore “they support terrorism.” He used strong words like “while Europe is terrified of terrorism, Brussels is openly supporting it.” He wanted to know “who is paying the lawyer” and called on MSZP to give an account.

Péter Bárándy in the courtroom

At the trial the prosecutor mostly praised the excellent decision that had been reached in the lower court. But he found the sentence of 10 years, the minimum for those accused of terrorism, insufficient and asked the court for 17.5 years instead. It was then Bárándy’s turn, who pointed out that he found 205 serious mistakes in the proceedings of the lower court. Here, of course, I cannot recount all of them. But I think a couple of examples will give a good idea of the kind of justice that was meted out to Ahmed H. A key charge against him was that he was the leader of the crowd that was throwing rocks against the police. A video, however, showed that the rock throwing had been going on for at least 45 minutes before Ahmed got hold of the bullhorn. In addition, the judge ignored the existence of a video taken by a policewoman which, as opposed to other videos, also contained sound and it doesn’t support Ahmed’s alleged incitement of the crowd. On the contrary, he can be heard saying to the fellow refugees “please, wait, stay here,” “please advise,” “we speak English, we don’t want an Arabic interpreter, we are asking for someone who speaks English.” And finally he told the refugees in Arabic, “no, wait, go back, please go back.” The verdict also claimed that Ahmed gave the police two hours to open the border. How did the police know this? He held up two fingers. But this can also mean “victory.” Finally, he was found guilty of illegally crossing the border, but even that judgment was wrong because Ahmed had free access to all EU countries, including Hungary. At the most, Ahmed was guilty of a misdemeanor (szabálysértés).

Ahmed H. with his back toward us is trying to calm the crowd / Source: police.hu

After the appellate court sent the case back to the lower court for a retrial, Zsolt Bayer wrote an opinion piece in Magyar Idők titled “H. Bárándy and Ahmed Péter.” Bayer may seem to have gotten a little mixed up. I assume you get the gist of what he wants to tell us. It was a relief to read close to the end of the article that “we are not going to incarcerate the judge [of the appellate court] or H. Bárándy.” That’s awfully charitable.

Let’s end this post on a lighter note. The management of state television M1 channel most likely was certain that the Ahmed H.’s verdict would not be reversed or annulled. Perhaps he will even get 17.5 years as the prosecution demanded. They decided to send a camera crew to the trial along with their legal experts who were supposed to give live commentary. For three solid hours one could watch the trial. Once the decision was handed down, however, M1 ended the live broadcast in a great hurry. No further commentary necessary.

The reaction of the top Fidesz leadership has been as expected–a complete denial of any possibility that the original verdict could be flawed and a charge that the socialists, the civic organizations, Brussels, and everybody else under the sun are working together to open the borders and let in all those migrants who are in Bayer’s words members of “the terrible mob of Mordor, the Third World.”

June 18, 2017
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B-uda
Guest

An uninformed editor at Breitbart can not see that Hungary has got an oppressive regime. They are publishing the misleading words of Orban too often.

Breitbart quoted Orban’s anti-imigrant tirades. Breitbart must recognize it as a cheap manipulation of the Hungarian public.

They think that an anti-Soros policy is positive enough to earn a praise, while the Hungarian projects of Soros show a positive capacity of the Open Society.

Brief Breitbart search:

http://www.breitbart.com/search/?s=Viktor+Orb%C3%A1n#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=Viktor%20Orb%C3%A1n&gsc.page=2

Breitbart is not sophisticated in its views on Hungary. Breitbart must wake up. They should stop believing in Orban.

Guest

Are you turning into an a**hole now, Andy (I assume that just like with the other trolls it’s you – under different names …)!

That fascist site aka Breitbart knows exactly what it’s doing – inciting people to violence!

I’ve said it before:
Anyone who quotes breitbart as a reliable site is himself a fascist propagandist!
Please lay off this nonsense – or f*ck off!

B-uda
Guest

wolfi, you are deadly wrong. Are you infected by the virus of the active measures? The Breitbart makes mistakes, but it is the one that fights the Kremlin, better than the NYT, CNN, FAZ, Die Zeit, Sueddeutsche Zeitung…etc. The common enemy is the Russian Leadership. Let us accept the positive sides of the rightwing thinkers, and refrain from the polarization, and attacking your fellow HS readers. Keep cool, stay civilized. Be a nice representative of Tuebingen.

Guest

Breitbart often publishes the same lies and propaganda as Russia Today …

Remember that story about the young Russian/German girl in Berlin that told police about being kidnapped by refugees?
One of her “friends” (a Russian) was just sentenced to jail.

Live Long and Prosper
Guest
Live Long and Prosper

Good that you finally covered this sad story, which has been highly frustrating to watch unfold (at a snail’s pace, whilst his family in Cyprus – who must be desperate – await his release).

gandolf
Guest

Join the discussion

gandolf
Guest

Join the discussion

gandolf
Guest

Does anyone know anything about any investigation results regarding the bombs which exploded during the previous elections? One was in district XIII, another one in downtown. Two police officers were injured at the last ones.

exTor
Guest

JUNETEENTH … … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth

Today is Juneteenth, which recognizes the June 19th day of 1865, when slaves in Texas were officially freed by proclamation. The day has official recognition (of some form) in 45 of 50 American states.

Without giving any legitimacy to gandolf, who seems trollish, I too have thought about the Budapest explosion that hurt 2 cops.

I have long suspected that it is an inside job, that some operatives linked to the government perpetrated the explosion. The bombing may have been officially carried out or it may have been a rogue action effected by someone[s] connected to Viktor Orbán’s party.

I’ve tried to ascertain followup information, however I haven’t learned much other than the condition of the more seriously injured cop. Is there any further info to be had?

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

Totally OT:
Also in June 1967 – just 50 years ago the laws in some US states were abolished that made “inter-racial marriage” a crime by a Supreme Court decision:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_v._Virginia
Last year a movie was made about this: Loving – which was the name of the couple btw …

Mr. and Mrs. Loving spent some time in prison in Virginia altough their marriage had been legal in Washington DC and then moved again out of the state Virginia to avoid prison and engaged Robert Kennedy and the ACLU. In response to them the local court wrote:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Not so long ago …
PS:
And I’m sure that some of those oh so Christian ‘Muricans and Hungarians and … would like those laws back …

Istvan
Guest
Ex tor Juneteenth, actually does not recognize the June 19th of 1865, as the day when slaves in Texas were officially freed by proclamation. On June 19, 1865, US Army Major Gen. Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, and informed the community of slave owners that President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier had freed the slaves in the State of Texas (because it was in rebellion against the union) and to forced locals to comply with President Lincoln’s Emancipation proclamation. The slave owners actually knew this, but had not informed their slaves for obvious reasons. Juneteenth is actually when the Texas slaves learned they had been freed. Gen. Gordon Granger militarily is most famous for his actions commanding the Reserve Corps at the Battle of Chickamauga. There on September 20, 1863, the second day of the battle, he reinforced, without orders, Major General George H. Thomas’ XIV Corps on Snodgrass Hill by ordering James B. Steedman to send two brigades under his command to help Thomas. This action staved off the Confederate attackers until dark, permitting the Federal forces to retreat in good order and thus helping Thomas to earn the sobriquet “Rock of Chickamauga.” He also led union forces… Read more »
exTor
Guest

Anybody who lived through the 1960s knows that the veesign (used by Winston Churchill during World War Two to signify Victory) is a universal sign for ‘peace’. Cultures that dont have English as its foremost language, thus not knowing that the veesign symbolizes the initial letter of ‘victory’, recognize the veesign as a point of peace. It is clear to me that Ahmed H was trying to diffuse a situation fraught with potential violence.

That racist scumbag Zsolt Bayer was being more than obvious when he identified Ahmed H and Péter Bárándy as a meld: H Bárándy and Ahmed Péter. This was a clear attempt to link Bárándy with terrorism and, by extension, with George Soros and Brussels.

The fact that the case will go to retrial gives me hope that the Hungarian judiciary is not completely flawed, not irredeemably tied to Fidesz.

MAGYARKOZÓ

wrfree
Guest

‘Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught’….Balzac

An ‘absurdity’ to be placed and compared to Mr. Bayer’s on the state of affairs in some particular Magyar judicial proceedings. Nothing like ‘Spidermen’ practicing law…;-)…

Member

“There are no such things as illegal immigrants, only illegal governments.”:
Ambalavaner Sivanandan
When is the EU finally going to act against the illegal Hungarian government which now seems to be able to abuse basic human rights on a daily basis without so much as a whimper from Brussels?

csipet
Guest

OT:

As they say: don’t change a winning team. This is a szoci dream team if ever there was one.

MSZP’s Laszlo Botka is using all the big names who brought MSZP so much success.

The team includes the indomitable Feri Baja, Zsolt Molnar (who personally sold MSZP’s 2014 campaign with Mesterházy to Fidesz and refused to attack Antal Rogan), József Tóbiás (who was an unusually edate MSZP chairman in a party of sedate politicians).

If this team won’t massacre Fidesz then I don’t know who will.

http://index.hu/belfold/2017/06/18/meglepo_visszaterok_dolgoznak_botka_laszlo_kampanyan/

exTor
Guest

DAY of the INDEPENDENT HUNGARY … … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_holidays_in_Hungary#Remembrance_days_endorsed_by_the_state

Forgot to mention that today is one of Hungary’s many Remembrance Days, this one to commemorate the departure of the last Russian ‘occupier’, which occurred in 1991.

I wonder if Russia-loving Viktor Orbán will mention this day’s import.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Observer
Guest

SHOW TRIAL it is – it has all the features of the Stalinist ones:
– Trumped up charges
– Selected, biased judges
– Manipulation, tampering and selective admission of evidence.
– Twisted interpretations
– Technically flawed prejudicial procedures.

It is also a trial run for such charges against protesting Hungarians.

Observer
Guest

This travesty of justice perfectly fits in the whole dictatorship building process:

The new amendments to the penal code redefine “terrorism” as any act aimed at forcing by means of violence the authorities to do or omit to do something at variance with the law.
The “act of violence” definition now includes such acts as causing damage (rongàlàs), i.e. courts found that throwing a spray paying canister to be such.
Finally, the regime’s propaganda has been recently writing about a campaign of violence allegedly being planned by the opposition, the NGOs and the enemies of Hungary for the autumn.

Ergo, the organizers and participants in any demonstration can be charged as terrorists if an agent provocateur throws a can toward the police. Capisi ?!

petofi
Guest

Rivarol–you are unique: a troll of some brevity!

Rivarol
Guest

We Jews should fight united against antisemitism and the return of nazism. It is good thst Eva is on our side.

Rivarol
Guest

Yes! I repeat, yes!

Ferenc
Guest

Some sort of not negative news out of the Hungarian justice system. But, although Ahmed H. can not be named a terrorist now, he is still in custody, awaiting a (2nd chance for a) fair trial in Orban’s Hungary. The reporting by public/state media and statements by Fidesz&Co made it all too clear that the actual decision wasn’t expected and will not be appreciated by OV&Co. So have doubts if the overall result will be a final fair outcome for the unfortunate Ahmed. I wonder how the next court and judge will be decided, and how independent they can stay from pressure coming from all sides.

Today Jun.20 is international World Refugee Day – http://www.un.org/en/events/refugeeday/, an interesting and positive event organized around this date is the International Refugee Food Festival – http://www.refugeefoodfestival.com/ – originally started in France and now held in several European cities.
Have strong doubts if the Hungarian public/state media will report about any of this today.

Ferenc
Guest

Videos recently uploaded by UNHCRCentralEurope:

World Refugee Day 2017, Hungary – Lutheran and Catholic bishops stand #withrefugees

UNHCR World Refugee Day 2017, Hungary – gastro bloggers stand #withrefugees

Please watch and “Don’t think what they can for your country, but what you can do for those, who had to leave their own country!”

Melanie Zuben
Guest

http://www.puszta.com/eng/hungary/cikk/kalocsa_kozepkori_ersekseg

Would I love to hear the opinion of the Archbishop of Kalocsa re: Miklos Beer’s comment.

Guest

Always back to the good ol’ times?
You’re latefor that stuff …
But you should remember that witches were tortured and killed in those days …
PS:
Just couldn’t resist! 🙂
And remember also:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
Not so long ago (50 years) that was the opinion of a court in the USA- luckily it was overturned by the Supremem Court …
You should go watch the movie “Loving” – that was actually the name of the black husband who had to go to prison (his pregnant wife too …) for that unspeakable crime of having sex and marrying someone of the wrong colour.
Those “Christians” are really great! 🙁

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Wolfi,
“But you should remember that witches were tortured and killed in those days …”
Frankly, according to my readers, I’m an “angel”.
. . . and what happened to ar#@$oles and traitors in the middle ages? 🙂 (François Villon gives a pretty good description)

Guest

We all know that you want a return to these times, don’t you? I read that there also were women as torturerers …

Btw what was an angel for some Christians in those days was often a devil for the next denomination – you’ve read about those many people killed in religious wars?

Luckily at least some of the Catholic clergy have changed (read the links by Ferenc) – but it seems not the (majority of …) Hungarians, they are still “Clerical Fascists”.
And especially for you:
Religion is the opium of the masses!

PS:
I have to admit however that paprika spice from Kalocsa is very good – my wife prefers it too, unless we get some homemade stuff which is still better.

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Wolfi,
Have you lost your mind or something?
I’m writing about love and passion and beautiful Hungarians (in body and soul) and believe it or not, I’m NOT particularly concerned about religious wars/Nazis and fascists. However, I’m concerned about the loss of the Hungarian culture. Also, I’m concerned about the care/resettlement of the helpless refugees to wealthy countries, where they will be accommodated according to their needs/beliefs.

Eastern European countries are still in the process of recovering from the effects of Communism (another unfortunate experiment of noted intellectuals) Give them a break!

Guest

Ifyou listen to Fideszniks (as you surely do …) Hungary is doing great!
However in reality:
The Number 3 internal medicine department of Jahn Ferenc Hospital has been closed as operations cannot be sustained anymore due to the excessive number of nursing staff quitting their jobs for better wages at the nearby IKEA store, according to Hungarian commercial news channel HírTV.
https://bbj.hu/budapest/southern-pest-hospital-loses-workers-to-ikea-report-says_134639
Why don’t you come back to Hungary and help out?
Orbán needs people like you!

Ferenc
Guest

Found for you ‘the opinion of the Archbishop of Kalocsa’, Dr Bábel Balázs: “ “ [silence]
So your easiest way out is hiding behind people not saying anything at all, afraid to make up your own mind, that’s called cowardice…

But still if you depend on his/their advice to make up your own mind in the refugee matter have a look around at these sites: http://uj.katolikus.hu/adattar.php?h=24 / http://www.asztrik.hu/
Even did some searches myself: https://www.google.com/search?q=refugees+site:katolikus.hu&tbs=qdr:y / https://www.google.com/search?q=menek%C3%BCltek+site:asztrik.hu&tbs=qdr:y
Couldn’t find any actual about refugees/menekültek there…

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Ferenc,
“So your easiest way out is hiding behind people not saying anything at all, afraid to make up your own mind, that’s called cowardice”

I think you must be talking about yourself in here. And what is it that you are really saying about Hungary accepting migrants/refugees? Are you giving me a bait? 🙂 I’m all ears! (for future historians)

Ferenc
Guest

You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby

Guest

Would you mind explaining what The Medieval Archbishopric has to do with this case?

No one here is intested in your catholic medieval ramblings imho! Luckily we left these times behind.

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