Hungarian Camerawoman Who Allegedly Attacked Refugees Charged With Disorderly Conduct

Petra Laszlo - H 2015

Prosecutors in Szeged, near Hungary's border with Serbia, say Petra Laszlo has avoided more serious charges due to lack of evidence.

A camerawoman with a Hungarian TV station has been charged with disorderly conduct after she was caught on film appearing to kick and trip refugees trying to cross her country's border.

Petra Laszlo, who lost her job with N1TV — a television station associated with Hungary's far-right nationalist party Jobbik — following the incident last year, will avoid more serious charges because prosecutors in the southern town of Szeged say there is no reasonable chance her actions had caused harm or that she was motivated by racial hatred.

The incident, close to Hungary's southern border with Serbia, was caught on film, prompting an international outcry.

In video footage Laszlo is seen appearing to kick a girl and a young man. She was also accused at the time of tripping a father carrying his young son, though prosecutors say that closer examination of the film of the incident shows the man fell after losing his balance while running away from police. The Syrian man, a soccer coach named Osama Abdul Mohsen, later moved to Spain after being offered work there, and his young son joined Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in a lap around the field before a game.

Laszlo, a mother of young children, went into hiding and later issued a statement via a Hungarian newspaper expressing her remorse.

"As I watch the footage now, it's like I'm not watching myself," she wrote in a letter to daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet. "I honestly regret what I had done and take responsibility for it." She added: "I panicked. I'm not a heartless, child-kicking racist."

The prosecutor's move comes at a politically highly charged time in Hungary and southern Europe. Hungarians go to the polls Oct. 2 to vote in a referendum on accepting or rejecting EU migrant quotas, the same day neighboring Austria holds a presidential election in which the far-right Freedom Party is expected to possibly win. Last Sunday Germany's Christian Democrats — the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has come under fire for her open-border policy toward refugees — suffered its first defeat in a regional election dominated by anti-immigrant rhetoric.