Czech Court Hands Down Verdict in Skinhead Case
10 April 1997
A Czech appellate court in the southern Bohemian town of Písek handed down verdicts on March 9 and 13, 1997, in the trial of four skinheads accused of crimes in connection with the 1993 killing of a Romani man named Tibor Danihel. 21-year-old Martin Brat, 20-year-old Jaroslav Churáček, 20-year-old Zdenek Habich and 23-year-old Martin Pomije were found guilty of violence against a group or an individual (Art. 196 of the Czech Penal Code), support and propagation of movements aiming at the suppression of rights and freedoms (Art. 260) and (with the exception of Brat) blackmail (Art. 235). On March 13, the four men named above were sentenced to prison terms of between 22 and 31 months.
According to the verdict, „The four defendants, together with at least 14 other individuals, gathered to attack Roma, whose colour of skin and racial origin they insulted. Four of the Roma jumped into the river from fear, and Tibor Danihel drowned. Churáček and Pomije prevented the Roma from getting out, and Churáček gave orders to the others."
An initial trial of 18 skinheads in December 1994 had rendered only two suspended sentences. The regional court overturned this decision and ordered a new investigation. In this second round of investigation, charges were dropped against 11 of the defendants. Many observers expressed disappointment that murder charges had not been brought against any of the skinheads. An Austrian witness who claims to have seen one of the skinheads hit Danihel while he was already in the river was not heard by the court, despite a willingness to give testimony. Both parties have appealed the verdict.