15 April 2020
- Cases, News, COVID-19 NEWS, Law enforcement and criminal justice, Press Releases, Refugees and migrants
The High Court of Budapest (Fővárosi Törvényszék) rejected the appeal of an Iranian pharmacist student in her fourth academic year. We are referring to her under the fictitious name Zara. She asked the Court to prevent her deportation to Iran, one of the most infected countries by the Covid-19 pandemic. The client of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee did not commit any violation of law, and the authorities did not present any evidence on her alleged unlawful behavior. Yet even before the criminal procedure could be concluded, considerable efforts have been made to expel her as soon as possible. Facts, the lack of evidence, the defense’s rebuttal of the absurd accusations, the presumption of innocence and even our client’s apparent innocence do not matter at all. The raw will of power carried the day. We have no doubt that our client is the victim of a politically motivated show trial.
Chronicle of a show trial
Late at night, Zara, a 33-year-old Iranian pharmacist student, living in Hungary for 9 years, and paying millions of HUF as tuition fee, was transported to the St. László Hospital of Budapest. She has never committed any violation of law.
She was hospitalized, because she came in contact with a person suspected of being infected with the coronavirus and had to be quarantined to be tested.
7 – 12 March
After her registration in hospital and the first examination, she was transferred to another building along with the other students. Here she was quarantined until 12 March. During her stay in the hospital, she did not have any conflict with the doctors. 12 March they were released from the hospital. Upon leaving, they were surrounded by 20 police officers in the hospital’s waiting room. The Police read the names of the Iranian students one by one, who were escorted individually to another room. Here they had to sign a document in Hungarian, which stated that they should show up with their passport at the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (NDGAP) on the following day. Students from South Korea, Spain, and a Swedish-Iranian national who were in quarantine together with the Iranians, were allowed to leave freely. Only the Iranian students were served with summons to the immigration authority.
Zara went to the NDGAP where she was heard and a few hours later, served with an expulsion decision. In the evening, the Police interrogated her. She was finally informed that she was accused of breaking the quarantine rules between 9 and 10 pm on 7 March by leaving her hospital room, behaving aggressively and refusing to return to her room despite repeated requests by the hospital staff.
A lawyer was appointed to her, but he was not present at the interrogation. Our client insisted that she did not commit any crime and would like to testify in the presence of a lawyer.
Zara, with the legal assistance of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, made a written statement on the details of the events, confirming that she did not violate any rule and left her room only to use a hand sanitizer, since they had neither liquid disinfectant nor soap in their room. In his submission to the Police, her lawyer pointed to an obvious contradiction in the accusation: she could not commit any crime she was accused of since she was not even admitted to the hospital then. According to official hospital records, she was not present in the hospital at 9 pm, not even at 10 pm, but – according to the final report -, was admitted only after 11 pm on 7 March. He also pointed out that according to the hospital documentation, our client was not even placed in the room which she was accused of leaving aggressively (at a time when she was not in the building either). In addition, he asked to see the documents in the case, as it is a right guaranteed to defense attorneys.
Zara was interrogated again, this time in the presence of her lawyer. She was informed that her accusation has been amended. According to the new accusation, she left her room without permission sometime after 11:04 on 7 March. She was no longer accused of behaving aggressively and not returning to her room despite repeated calls. The new accusation did not specify the exact date when her alleged actions took place and which room she was suspected of leaving. At this point, it became evident that the police had no idea even about when their suspects were admitted to the hospital. Our client upheld her written testimony and also submitted a complaint about this amended accusation. She insisted that she did not violate any rules. Her lawyer observed that the amended accusation did not contain any factual details nor did it specify what rules applied to our client and whether they were communicated to anyone at all, if so, when and how. For all these reasons, he proposed to hear the doctors and nurses who were working in during our client’s stay in the hospital and to ask them who communicated the rules to our client and when and how exactly she violated them.
The head of the Prosecution Office of Budapest District IX. rejected both complaints against the accusations, and held that further investigation is needed to fully clarify the facts. The rejection decision holds that both accusations were correct and lawful, since there is adequate reason to believe that our client left her room. However, based on the second accusation, it is logically impossible that the first accusation could be factually and legally correct.
The Budapest Metropolitan Police issued a decision restricting the right of access to the files in the criminal case. The Police held that it would be suspects who should not have access to each other’s testimony, and testimonies of other witnesses heard in the case. This is, again, misleading and incorrect, since our client is the sole suspect in her case, she is not charged as part of a group. We are aware that none of the accused accept the charges brought against them. Furthermore, the two nurses who had been heard as witnesses stated that all were free to leave their room to the corridor, since that is where the disinfectant was available to them.
Our lawyer obtained written testimonies from several of our client’s classmates present at the hospital who are not accused of committing a criminal offense. They all claim, in full knowledge of their criminal liability, that even though the rules of quarantine have not been properly explained to them, our client did not violate any of the them.
Others admit that there was indeed a conflict on 7 March when infected and uninfected students were being locked up in one room, but at the time of that conflict, Zara was still at her home. She was brought to the hospital by the police for epidemiological isolation, so this can easily be confirmed not only by the hospital documentation but also by a police report.
Based on clear lies and a completely false narrative, our client, Zara and her twelve classmates are to be expelled from Hungary and the European Union. Her appeal against the expulsion decision was rejected by the Court, which held that no matter whether our client is innocent or not, and the Court has no right to override the statement of the police in this matter. A final judgment had already been delivered before the criminal procedure could be concluded.
The expulsion to Iran, one of the countries most affected by the corovavirus pandemic can now be carried out at any time, as there is no further opportunity of appeal against the Court’s judgment.