Inadequate Justice in Czech Race Crime
29 October 2003
On March 26, 2003, the Karvina District Court sentenced 35-year-old Mr Libor Svoboda, one of twelve accused persons, to four years imprisonment for racially motivated grievous bodily harm, in accordance with Article 222 (1&2b) of the Czech Criminal Code. The sentence is in connection with the August 9, 2002, attacks by between twenty and thirty non-Roma of a group on about ten Roma at the local pub Bagsy and later in front of the Alexandria discotheque in the northeastern town of Český Téšín. The ERRC provided legal defense to Mr Norbert G., with the assistance of local lawyer Mr Pavel Pénkav. During the attack, Mr Svoboda broke the knee of Mr Norbert G. with a baseball bat (for further information in the case, see: Continued Racist Violence against Roma in the Czech Republic ). The Court further accepted Mr Norbert G.'s claim for compensation for the pain he suffered as a result of the attack and ordered Mr Svoboda to pay him damages in the amount of 10,800 Czech crowns (approximately 345 Euro). Thirty-two-year-old Mr Karel Pokorný was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for rioting (Article 202(1)), and defamation by a group of persons of a nation, its language or race (Article 198(1a&2)) for his actions in the Alexandria attack; and rioting, defamation of a nation, its language or race (Article 198(1a)) and racially motivated violence against a group (Article 196(2)) in connection with the Bagsy attack. Mr Zdeněk Janeta, aged 32, Mr Petr Měsíček, 22, Mr Petr Lukša, 26, and Filip Kubančík, 22, were all sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for rioting, defamation by a group of persons of a nation, its language or race and racially motivated violence against a group, in connection with the Alexandria attack. Twenty-five-year-old Michal Piechaczek, Mr Aleš Buzek, 26, Mr Tomáš Muszynski, 27, Mr Jaroslav Bytčanek, 24, Mr Marek Žirek, 21, and Mr Josip Marjanović, a 37-year-old man born in Bosnia, were all acquitted due to a purported lack of evidence. All twelve men had originally been charged with racially motivated grievous bodily harm.
During the trial, Mr Svoboda admitted that he had been the one to hit Mr Norbert G. on the knee with a baseball bat. Mr Svoboda appealed the verdict on the spot. According to the Czech national daily newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes (MFDnes) of March 27, 2003, after the trial, Mr Svoboda stated, "I know that we did something wrong. Apparently, I made another mistake when I admitted to the crime. Four years imprisonment is a lot."