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13 April 2024

Hungary hands migrant-kicking journalist probation

This video grab made on September 9, 2015 shows a Hungarian TV camerawoman later named as Petra Laszlo kicking a child as she run with other migrants from a police line during disturbances at Roszke. (AFP)


A Hungarian television camerawoman who made headlines in 2015 after tripping and kicking migrants fleeing police was found guilty Thursday of the misdemeanour of vandalism and was sentenced to probation.

A judge in Szeged, southern Hungary, said the actions of Petra Laszlo breached public peace by triggering "indignation and outrage", and rejected her defence lawyer's argument that she was trying to protect herself.

The judge found her guilty, sentenced her to three years probation and if she does not re-offend during that period the conviction will be dropped.

In television footage, which sparked global outrage, Laszlo can be seen tripping up a man sprinting with a child in his arms, and kicking another running child near the town of Roszke, close to the border with Serbia.

It later emerged that the camerawoman, who was fired over her actions, had been working for N1TV, an internet-based television station close to Hungary's far-right Jobbik party.

The incident on September 8, 2015 occurred as hundreds of migrants broke through a police line at a collection point close to the Serbian border.

"I turned and saw several hundred people charging toward me, it was quite incredibly frightening," she said.

Laszlo said she had received death threats after the incident and took part in the hearing in Szeged via a video link from a courtroom in Budapest.

Occasionally breaking into tears, she told the court that she had been subjected to a "hate campaign" since the incident.

She "terribly regretted" what happened at Roszke, and said that her life had been "derailed" by what happened.

Both the prosecutor, who sought the maximum penalty of a stiff fine, and Laszlo's defence lawyer who asked for acquittal, said they would appeal the first instance verdict.

Laszlo told a Russian newspaper in 2015 that she planned to move with her family to Russia after the case ended as she no longer felt safe in Hungary.

In 2015 thousands of migrants crossed into Hungary each day as the country, a southern gateway into the EU's passport-free Schengen zone, became a temporary hotspot of the migration crisis.

A week after the incident, Hungarian soldiers completed the closure of the 175-kilometre-long (110-mile-long) border with a fence reinforced with razor wire.

Over 400,000 migrants passed through Hungary in 2015 bound for western Europe, but the number plummeted after the border was sealed off.

The Syrian man tripped up by Laszlo was later given a job by a Spanish football coaching school, while his son ran with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo onto the pitch in Madrid before a match.