BUDAPEST (AFP) — The Hungarian Constitutional Court said Monday it rejected Socialist-initiated amendments of the country's hate speech bill, calling them unconstitutional.
The amendments would cause the curtailing of freedom of expression, the court said in a statement.
"In a free and democratic society the expression of extreme and exclusive opinion does not endanger the foundations and operations of the society because by expressing such views, the discriminator confines itself to the periphery," the court said.
The court stressed that in order to isolate voices of hate, political figures consistently have to take a stand against exclusion.
The Hungarian Parliament passed two amendments concerning hate speech with the sole support of the Socialist faction.
According to the first amendment, passed in November 2007, the civil code on hate speech would enable legal action even if someone's human rights are hurt, not personally but by expressions directed at a group to which the person belongs.
Passed in February, the amendment of the penal code foresaw a maximum two-year prison sentence for anyone who uses inflamatory expressions about specific ethnic groups or offends their dignity.
The amendments -- not endorsed by the Socialist-led government -- did not take effect because suspecting their unconstitutionality, Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom asked for preliminary review by the Constitutional Court in March.
As a reaction to the president's move, the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities boycotted a meeting of religious leaders, organized by Solyom.
The Hungarian parliament has already tried in vain to turn hate speech into a penal act three times since 1992.
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