The trial against three activists from Germany and Italy began in Budapest. One of them was sentenced subsequently to three years in prison. A German secret service is seeking a deal for other wanted persons.
Antifa activist Tobias E., who comes from Berlin, pleaded guilty to being a member of a criminal organisation at the Budapest City Court. The 29-year-old was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison in a preliminary trial. The background to the case is a series of violent attacks on the fringes of the “Day of Honour” last 10 and 11 February in the Hungarian capital. Nine actual or perceived right-wing extremists were injured at the Europe-wide neo-Nazi march, six of them seriously. The attackers are said to have been armed with telescopic batons, hammers and lead gloves, with video footage of one of the incidents.
It was the first day of a trial in which three activists from Germany and Italy are accused. The Public Prosecutor’s Office dropped a charge of assault against Tobias E., leaving only the association paragraph. “I recognise my guilt and waive the rights to which I am entitled in the proceedings,” the Hungarian newspaper “Blikk” quoted him as saying. The accused has been in custody since his arrest a year ago and was led into the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office had requested three and a half years in prison for Tobias E. and will now appeal, as will the defendant. Following this verdict, the defence can apply for him to serve his prison sentence in Germany. If he remained imprisoned in Hungary, his sentence could be commuted to probation after two thirds.
Tobias E. was accused of having founded an “organisation sympathising with left-wing extremist ideology” for the acts in Budapest. The main defendant in this trial is the Italian Ilaria S.; she is also accused of attempted life-threatening bodily harm – for which the public prosecutor’s office demanded eleven years in prison if she also agreed to a plea bargain. “I did not commit these crimes, I do not accept what they are accusing me of,” she said in court on Monday, according to a Hungarian newspaper. She could now face a significantly higher sentence in a main trial, which is due to begin on 24 May.
A large solidarity campaign has formed in Italy because of Ilaria S.’s inhumane prison conditions. A petition for her release and transfer to Italy has reached the target of 50,000 signatures and is now closed. The father of the activist, who is well-known in Italy, also travelled to the trial on Monday, as did various Italian media.
Anna M., who comes from Germany, is another defendant in the trial. Unlike the other two activists, she was granted parole and reporting requirements at her place of residence a year ago; she travelled to the trial on Monday. She is also only still facing the charge of membership of a criminal organisation; according to the public prosecutor’s office, she should therefore also be imprisoned for three and a half years and could now receive a significantly higher sentence.
According to the indictment, Anna M. and Tobias E. were members of a German group that had set itself the task of taking militant action against right-wing extremists. In this context, four people were sentenced to several years in prison by the Dresden district court at the end of May in the so-called “Antifa East trial” for several attacks. This German judgement is not yet final.
Together with the State Office of Criminal Investigation in Saxony, Hungarian investigators are searching for 14 other suspected perpetrators, including ten Germans. At least four of them are also believed to have been involved in the offences at the “Day of Honour” in Budapest. Following a European arrest warrant from Hungary, the Berlin police arrested another accused person in Berlin in December, who is called Maja T. by her circle of supporters and is in custody in Dresden awaiting the outcome of her extradition proceedings. In Italy, Gabriele M. had been arrested in November and placed under house arrest.
Last week, an German initiative of relatives of several wanted persons published a “letter to parents” and called for the ten suspects wanted from Hungary to be given a fair trial in Germany and not to be extradited following their arrest. Otherwise, they would face “unreasonably high sentences compared to Germany”.
Several defence lawyers from the German ” Antifa East Complex” argued along the same lines in a statement. “The Hungarian justice system does not meet legal standards,” they say, referring to judgements by several higher regional courts. The detention conditions are intended to wear down those wanted and persuade them to hand themselves in in Germany, the lawyers criticise.
This vulnerability has now been recognised by the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), which, according to several relatives of wanted persons, has approached them in several federal states for suggesting a deal.
Now it is also clear what the BfV is planning: According to the lawyers’ group, it has offered to “mediate” a deal with the Public Prosecutor General’s Office in Dresden. The wanted persons were to hand themselves in in return for a guarantee that they would not be extradited. It is still unclear whether the judiciary will agree to such a deal.
The solidarity groups of Tobias E. and Maja T. also assume that today’s guilty plea is due to the inhumane conditions in the Budapest prison. “The fact that Tobias accepted the court’s deal proves how the Hungarian system works: Defendants are forced to confess by the unspeakable pre-trial detention conditions,” they said in a statement. A fair trial could therefore not even take place. “That is why we must prevent the extradition of Maja and Gabriele at all costs and return Tobias and Ilaria to their countries as soon as possible.”
Support comes from the former alliance “We are all LinX”, which was founded against the conviction in the first ” Antifa East” trial. In a recent call, a three-digit number of signatories are calling for further defendants not to be extradited to Hungary and for the defendants there to be transferred to Germany. “All of this is happening at a time when fascists are gaining ground across Europe, when a fascist party could soon re-enter parliament with a majority in Germany and is organising with well-connected neo-Nazis to plan the deportation of large sections of the population. We must once again realise how important anti-fascism should be in our society,” reads the appeal.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: Gegen Oben.