Hungary to release Syrian jailed over 2015 border riot

Syrian Ahmed Hamed, pictured at his trial on June 15, 2017, for his role in a 2015 border riot. AFP pic)

BUDAPEST: A Syrian man jailed in Hungary for his role in a border riot in 2015 will be released next week, a court said Friday, ending a controversial case that saw Budapest accused of heavy-handedness.

Ahmed Hamed will be conditionally released from prison on Jan 19 and then expelled from the country, a court spokesman in Nyiregyhaza eastern Hungary told the Hungarian newswire MTI.

Hamed was accused of using a megaphone to orchestrate violence and throwing stones at Hungarian police to force them to open the border with Serbia in September 2015.

The clashes took place during the peak of Europe’s migration crisis, a day after Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s hardline anti-immigration government sealed the frontier with a razor wire fence.

During the unrest, several dozen migrants tried to cross the fence into Hungary at the Roszke checkpoint while riot police used tear gas and water cannon to force them back onto Serbian territory.

Around 15 police and 100-150 migrants were injured, including children, prosecutors said. Hamed admitted throwing stones at police but denied being a terrorist.

Hamed, who had lived in EU member Cyprus for around a decade before the clash, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in November 2016 under anti-terrorism laws.

His conviction was later annulled over lack of evidence but after a retrial last September he was ordered to serve two-thirds of a five-year jail term – including time already spent in detention – and given an expulsion order from Hungary.

Both the US State Department and the European Parliament called the original 10-year verdict too severe, while Hungarian rights groups said it was the product of a “show trial”.