Update from Hungary - suspended sentence for protester who threatened Pride participants
A member of an extreme right wing organisation has been sentenced to two years imprisonment (suspended for three and a half years) for insulting and threatening Budapest Pride March participants in 2012 as part of a larger group.
Our member organisation Háttér Society have released a detailed press statement on the judgment. It is available to read below or on the organisation's own website.
Budapest, February 5, 2016 – A member of the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement, an extreme right wing organization in Hungary, was sentenced to two years of imprisonment - suspended for three and a half years - for committing a hate crime by insulting and threatening the participants of the Budapest Pride March in 2012 as part of a larger group.
As in every year since 2007, extreme right wing protesters tried to disrupt the yearly Budapest Pride March in 2012 as well. The March ended in Alkotmány Street, participants could leave the premises only in one direction towards Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road - Nyugati Square. A group of 8-10 persons dressed in black, wearing extreme right wing symbols were standing outside the police fences shouting “Dirty faggots!”, insulting the participants. Some were kicked or slapped, for others their clothes were pulled or their balloons were punched. The police apprehended two persons on the spot who kept on using homophobic slur even during their arrest.
The police carried out a long investigation in which dozens of police officers and participants were interrogated, and the prosecution charged the two persons with violence against a member of a community committed as part of a group via anti-communal behavior inciting alarm in others. While physical assaults were also committed, the investigation was not able to uncover exactly which member of the group committed them. In a judgement pronounced on November 12, 2015 and only recently delivered to the victims, the court found one of the defendants guilty, while acquitted the other defendant as the prosecution was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was also part of the group and did not arrive at the scene later.
In its judgement the court laid down the principle that “freedom of expression - which is guaranteed by the Fundamental Law and other laws - is not without limits. Its limit is the sovereignty of other persons, their freedom, security and sense of security. (...) Making hateful and hurtful comments, wearing clothes different from those of the participants or taking part in a spontaneous counter-demonstration is not a crime, but threatening others or exhibiting other frightening behavior is suitable to make the participants feel alarmed, which amounts to violence against a member of a community.”
“We welcome the most recent decision of the court which confirms that violent protesters against the Pride March are not exercising their freedom of expression, but are committing hate crimes” - said Tamás Dombos, working for the Legal Aid Service of Háttér Society, which provides legal representation to the victims. “It is, however, rather unfortunate, that while the whole series of incidents happened under the noses of the police, they only managed to charge one member of the group, and even though the suspects were charged on the same day the incidents happened, it took the criminal justice system more than three years to deliver a first instance judgement. We hope that following this decision the police will be more encouraged to step up against violent counter-demonstrators.”
According to Article 216 of the Hungarian Criminal Code violence against a member of a community is committed if a person assaults or coerces another person because of their belonging to a social group based on - among others - sexual orientation or gender identity, or exhibits an anti-communal behavior suitable to incite alarm in members of that community. While the Criminal Code allows for the treatment of homophobic or transphobic incidents as hate crimes since 2008, the first judgment making reference to this provision in such a case was delivered only in 2015 in relation to another incident at the Budapest Pride March. The judgement in the current case is not yet binding.