A Hungarian court rejected the appeal of a Syrian refugee and upheld his 2016 conviction for “terrorism”, but reduced his seven-year sentence, in what a rights group called an abuse of anti-terrorism laws.
The appeals court handed down the decision on Thursday in the southern city of Szeged to uphold the conviction while reducing Ahmed H’s sentence to five years.
Eda Seyhan, Amnesty International’s counterterrorism campaigner who was in the courtroom, said in a statement to Al Jazeera, “this judgement comes as a blow for Ahmed, his wife and his two young daughters.”
The charges stem from an incident on the Hungarian-Serbian border in 2015, at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis.
Ahmed H – as he’s identified in court documents, who had already been granted protected status and lived in Cyprus with his wife and children – was attempting to escort his elderly parents on their journey from Syria to Europe.
A confrontation occurred between a large group of asylum-seekers attempting to cross into Hungary and police. Ahmed H was caught on tape throwing stones in the direction of police.
Seyhan said Thursday’s ruling was his final appeal.
The court counted the three years he has already served in a Hungarian prison towards his sentence. He will be eligible for release in early 2019.
Seyhan said throwing stones is not terrorism and the verdict rides “roughshod over the law”.
She added the conviction “plays into the hands of the Hungarian authorities’ demonisation of refugees, migrants and those seeking to protect them”.
Awful. Just awful.
Throwing stones is not terrorism. https://t.co/1nCYgoSGt4
— Eda Seyhan (@eda_seyhan) September 20, 2018
Asked about Amnesty’s criticism of Ahmed H’s ruling, the Hungarian government’s International Communications Office told Al Jazeera the fact the group isn’t “willing to accept the decision of the independent Hungarian court speaks for itself”.
The European Parliament voted in favour of disciplinary action against Hungary on September 12, citing the country’s flouting of the EU’s democratic norms.
A report authored by Dutch Greens MEP Judith Sargentini – to explain why disciplinary action should be used – admonished Hungary for its attacks against media plurality, academic freedom, and treatment of migrants and refugees.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called the vote “nothing less than the petty revenge of pro-immigration politicians”.