Momentum in Hungary, stubbornness in Germany: News on the Antifa trial in Budapest

Article by Matthias Monroy for the German newspaper nd

Two activists from Germany are also threatened with extradition to Hungary for alleged attacks on neo-Nazis. Several lawyers’ associations are warning against this and citing good reasons.

Last week, the Court of Appeal in Budapest ruled that the Italian left-wing activist Ilaria Salis, who is in custody in the Hungarian capital, can be released from pre-trial detention to house arrest and set bail of the equivalent of €41,000. The measure is to be monitored by an electronic anklet.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office accuses Salis and a German co-defendant of attacking and injuring several right-wing extremists at the “Day of Honour” in Budapest in February 2023. She faces up to eleven years in prison, the German woman up to three and a half years. Tobias E., who also comes from Germany, admitted to the charge of membership of a criminal organisation at the end of February and therefore got off with an initial three years in prison in a preliminary trial.

By authorising Ilaria Salis’ house arrest, Hungary’s judiciary is doing Italy a favour. The prison conditions and the trial against the teacher had caused diplomatic disgruntlement there after the self-confessed anti-fascist was brought before the court shackled hand and foot at the start of the trial in January and again in May. During her 15-month imprisonment, Salis had massively criticised the inhumane conditions in prison. For this reason, Italy’s Public Prosecutor General’s Office decided not to agree to the extradition of left-wing activist Gabriele Marchesi, which Hungary had requested in the same case.

The easing of the Italian’s prison sentence could also have repercussions for two Germans who are facing extradition to Hungary from Saxony and Bavaria in connection with the “Day of Honour”. In the first week of May, the German Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Nuremberg had the 29-year-old activist Hanna S. arrested for this purpose. Nothing is yet known about her extradition proceedings.

However, such proceedings are pending before the Berlin Court of Appeal against Maja T., who has been in custody in Dresden since December. An arrest warrant for extradition has already been issued and the German Federal Public Prosecutor General in Karlsruhe would agree to this. The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating Maja T. in parallel on suspicion of membership of a criminal organisation under Section 129 of the German Criminal Code and for various acts of bodily harm. The charges are essentially identical to those in the Hungarian proceedings.

The Dresden Public Prosecutor General’s Office, which was initially responsible for Maja T., had stated with regard to nine other German nationals wanted by Hungary that extradition could be refused if the people in hiding were to face proceedings here and make a confession.

Four associations of German defence lawyers have now reminded the public of this possibility in a statement published on Friday. However, according to the lawyers, a constitutional trial in Germany should “not be tied to the condition of extorting a confession”, because the rights of the accused also include the freedom not to make statements.

Maja T. is a non-binary person, which is why he is facing additional harsh prison conditions in Hungary. The defence lawyers also point this out in their statement and demand that Maja T. not be extradited. The Berlin Court of Appeal described this similarly in the extradition proceedings in a written statement, according to which the Hungarian government’s policy must be described as “anti-gender, homo- and trans-hostile”.

It remains to be seen when Ilaria Salis will begin her house arrest in Budapest. She will devote herself to the European election campaign there after the alliance of the Italian Greens and the Left nominated Salis as the top candidate in the north-west district of Italy on their lists. If she is actually elected in the second week of June, Salis could benefit from her parliamentary immunity. However, Hungary’s judiciary could apply to have this immunity lifted.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Martin Schirdewan, co-chairman of the Left Group in the European Parliament, also drew attention to the trial in Budapest. Schirdewan called the threat of extradition of German anti-fascists “shocking”. Hungary’s actions were “completely disproportionate” and German authorities were acting as “willing enforcers”. Schirdewan described the attempt to blackmail information by offering a trial in Germany as unworthy of a state governed by the rule of law.

Birgit Wittkugel, the mother of a wanted German woman, also spoke at the press conference. Wittkugel reported that she and her 87-year-old mother had been approached by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as possible informants. The people in hiding would be forced to abandon their studies due to the threat of extradition and would also risk health problems if they did not visit a doctor for fear of arrest, she explained. Together with other parents, Wittkugel therefore called for a fair and constitutional trial in Germany instead of Hungary.

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