Reduced sentence in racist killing in Czech Republic
ČTK reported that on February 26 the regional court in Hradec Králové had lowered by five times the sentence given to Petr Klazar for participation in the drowning of Helena Biháriová, a 26-year-old Romani woman, in the northeastern Czech town of Vrchlabí in February 1998 (see "Snapshots from around Europe", Roma Rights, Winter 1998).
The court sentenced the 24-year-old Klazar to fifteen months in prison for hooliganism, overruling its own verdict last year when it sentenced him to a period of incarceration of 6.5 years for hooliganism and extortion resulting in death. In its February 26 ruling, the court confirmed another verdict of last year when it sent Klazar's companion in the Biháriová affair, 24-year-old Jiří Neffe, to jail for 8.5 years. The verdicts have taken effect because no further appeal was possible in Neffe's case, while Klazar and the state attorney waived their right to appeal. Klazar was released from custody. He had been in detention for approximately one year.
The court ruled that Klazar had only committed hooliganism when, drunk and together with Neffe, he verbally attacked Ms Biháriová and chased her to the Elbe river in Vrchlabí. Neffe and Klazar told the court last year that they had argued with Ms Biháriová over the sum of 200 crowns (approximately five euros) which she had allegedly stolen from Klazar some time before. Neffe admitted that he had hit Biháriová in the face, pushed her and that she had slipped into the river. According to their own accounts, the two men pressured Ms Biháriová verbally to move further into the river. When she did so, she was caught by the current and drowned. In its initial ruling, in September 1998, the second instance court dismissed the possibility of racial motivation in the case.