Court in Hungary Overturns Conviction of Camerawoman Seen Kicking Migrants
Posted October 31, 2018 5:50 p.m. EDT
LONDON — Hungary’s highest court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a camerawoman who was filmed kicking refugees at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, briefly becoming a symbol of the country’s hostility to people fleeing the war in Syria.
The court acknowledged in a statement that the conduct of the camerawoman, Petra Laszlo, was “morally deplorable and against the law,” but found that the lower courts had wrongly convicted her of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor under Hungarian law. If there had been disorder, it said, the migrants who ran through a police cordon were to blame.
“It was not the conduct of the accused that disturbed peace in the community, but the charge of several hundred immigrants, resisting police intervention,” the court said.
Instead of a misdemeanor, Laszlo should have been charged with “disturbance,” a regulatory offense usually punished by a fine, the court ruled. The statute of limitations for the lesser charge has expired, so she will not be punished for the incident.
Laszlo, carrying a television camera and wearing a surgical mask, was recording in a field near the Serbia-Hungary border in September 2015, when migrants broke through a police cordon. They ran by her, and one of them jostled her.
She kicked two people in the legs as they passed.
One of them — Osama Abdul Mohsen, a Syrian refugee who was carrying his son — fell to the ground.
Video of the incident was widely shared online, and eventually seen by millions around the world. Like the photographs published a few days earlier of a drowned Syrian toddler who washed up on a Turkish beach, the video became one of the most widely recognized illustrations of the plight of hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to make their way to Western and Northern Europe.
Laszlo was promptly fired from the far-right television station she had been working for, and has since withdrawn from public life. She apologized for her actions but later said that she had been used as a tool to vilify Hungary’s attitude toward migrants. She also repeated unfounded allegations that Mohsen belonged to a terrorist organization.
Mohsen and his sons went on to Spain, where they obtained asylum and he found work as a soccer coach.