LONDON — A Hungarian camerawoman who sparked global outrage after she was filmed kicking and tripping refugees has been sentenced to three years’ probation, according to Szeged District Court.
Petra Laszlo was caught on camera kicking a young girl and tripping a man running with a child in his arms.
Both were fleeing from police at a holding camp near the town of Roszke, on the Hungary-Serbia border, in September 2015 after about 400 migrants broke through a police line.
Video of the incident showed Laszlo sticking out her foot as Osama Abdul Mohsen, a Syrian refugee who was holding his seven-year-old son Zaid, darted past police.
The footage, which went viral after it was shared by RTL Television reporter Stephan Richter, has been retweeted over 2,400 times.
“The video has caused indignation and disbelief all over the world,” Richter told CNN Friday. “To all appearances, the Court of Szeged is similar in its decision.”
Shortly after the incident, Laszlo was fired by her employer, the Hungarian nationalist N1TV station, and apologized for her actions.
But in an interview with CNN in 2015, Mohsen said he did not buy Lazlo’s excuses: “I tell her, be sure you Hungarian journalist that karma will get back to you, and God will not leave this be.”
Syrian refugee warned Lazlo of karma
Mohsen said that the stampede was spurred by desperate conditions at the temporary camp where thousands of people — mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan — had gathered on their way to Western Europe.
Mohsen told CNN he only spent one night in the camp, sleeping on the ground, but that others had lived in cramped conditions for weeks.
“This caused anxiety and weariness to many migrants,” Mohsen said. “The indifference of the Hungarian authorities triggered the situation, causing the migrants to storm the police defenses and walk their way to the nearby village, around three to five kilometers away.”
It was during this melee that Laszlo was seen kicking and tripping fleeing migrants.
A few days after the ordeal, Laszlo apologized for her actions in a letter published by the daily Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet. In it, she said she was frightened when the migrants burst through the police cordon, and feared she would be attacked.
“I am very sorry for the incident, and as a mother I am especially sorry for the fact that fate pushed a child in my way. I did not see that at that moment. I started to panic and as I re-watch the film, it seems as it was not even me,” her letter states.
Mohsen, who was a soccer coach at a sports club in Deir Ezzor before leaving Syria, was offered a job at a football academy near Madrid, Spain, after the dramatic video of the incident went viral.
And his son Zaid was chosen as a mascot for Real Madrid, walking out on to the field at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium holding soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo’s hand.
In a later interview with the Guardian, Mohsen said that he has since forgiven Laszlo. Her actions, he said, gave his family a future while costing her family their own.
Hungary cracking down on refugees
Hungary has been heavily criticized for its tough immigration measures since shuttering its border last September and installing a razor-wire fence.
On the same day of Laszlo’s sentencing, the Hungarian government introduced more measures to crack down on the tide of refugees, announcing that it would detain all asylum seekers while their applications are being processed.
“No one may freely move in the territory of Hungary until the assessment of the asylum application submitted,” Janos Lazar, the chief of staff of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said.
Hungary is recruiting thousands of so-called “border hunters” to patrol the frontier with the police and army.
During a ceremony in Budapest Thursday, Orban swore in police officers who had taken part in the first phase of border guard training.
Orban said Hungary was one of the safest countries in the European Union, but said it must not expect help from Brussels, insisting “we ourselves must organize our own defense.”
The nationalist PM championed a campaign to reject EU migrant quotas in a controversial referendum last year; Orban hailed the vote a victory, despite a low turnout that rendered its result invalid.