Budapest, April 8, 2021 (AFP) - Hungary summoned a German embassy official Thursday after a Bundesliga football side sacked its Hungarian goalkeeping coach for making anti-immigration comments in an interview.
Hungary's foreign ministry said that Hertha Berlin's dismissal on Tuesday of goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry "restricted free expression".
"Germany, like Hungary, has direct historical experience of terror of opinion, so guarding the fundamental right to freedom of expression is our common moral duty," the ministry said in a statement.
In an interview with Magyar Nemzet newspaper published Monday, Petry, 54, blasted Europe's "immigration policy" which he called "an expression of moral decline".
Petry also criticised RB Leipzig and Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi for posting a Facebook message in February that expressed solidarity with an LGBT rights and same-sex adoption campaign.
With Hungarian sports people rarely commenting in public on current affairs or social issues, Gulacsi's post sparked a fierce debate in Hungary and drew criticism from supporters of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The nationalist premier has enacted a socially conservative policy agenda in recent years, shaping Hungary into what he calls a "Christian-conservative" bastion against liberal ideologies.
Several senior government ministers have protested against Petry's dismissal, including Orban's cabinet chief Gergely Gulyas who called it "outrageous".
"Germany should answer whether or not it is still a country of rule of law, freedom of speech is a European value," he told a press briefing Thursday.
Hertha Berlin said in a statement on Tuesday that Petry's remarks breached the club's commitment to values of diversity and tolerance, and that it had terminated the Hungarian's contract with immediate effect.
After his sacking, Petry said that he was "neither homophobic nor xenophobic" and regretted his statement on immigration, apologising "to all the people who are seeking refuge".