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Hungary charges Syrian with 'terrorism' after border riot

18 February 2016, 17:44

Budapest - Hungarian prosecutors charged Thursday a Syrian migrant with committing an "act of terror" during fierce clashes with border forces last year, in the first case of its kind under tough new laws.

The September 16 disturbances occurred when several dozen migrants demanded to be allowed to cross Hungary's southern border with Serbia at Roszke, a day after the frontier was sealed with razor wire.

Some threw stones, sticks and bottles while police fired tear gas and used water cannon to force the group, which had pushed its way across the border line, back onto Serbian territory.

The incident left around 15 police and 100-150 migrants injured.

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A spokesperson for prosecutors in Csongrad county told the MTI news agency Thursday that Ahmed H., 40, incited the crowd to violence, repeatedly threatened the security forces and then joined the subsequent disturbances.

"In order to cross the border illegally and coerce state bodies, the man committed a criminal act of violence against persons amounting to the crime of an act of terror," Ferenc Szanka said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban was criticised over the treatment last year of hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to travel onwards to northern Europe before his government stopped the influx by closing its borders.

Tough new laws passed in September made it a crime, rather than an infringement, to illegally cross the border and made damaging frontier fences punishable with several years in prison.

More than 1,000 migrants have been arrested and detained in custody since then, with the majority then expelled from the country.

Orban's government, long accused of eroding democratic norms in the ex-communist country, is now planning tough anti-terror measures including restrictions on the Internet and curfews, sparking a fierce debate.

While the right-wing government says it currently faces no direct terrorist threat, it says the potential is high, and has proposed changing the constitution to bring in the measures.

Critics including opposition parties and rights groups say a vaguely defined threat could allow the government to suddenly clamp down on civil liberties in the 10-million-strong EU member state.

Orban says that all European governments should have the powers necessary to protect its citizens.



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