Czech court finally rules football fans' actions during attack on Black man should be considered misdemeanors, not felonies
Three fans of the Czech football club Sigma Olomouc who had been charged with committing racially-motivated violence have finally been acquitted of their alleged involvement in an attack on a Black man on a tram in Prague. The charges have been reduced to misdemeanor offenses and the municipal authority will now deal with them.
It has taken almost three years for the Municipal Court in Prague to hand down a final verdict in the case. The attorney for the injured party is considering filing a complaint with the Constitutional Court against the lower court decision.
The defendants, Štěpán Černín, Tomáš Satora and Josef Richard Uhlík, were charged in June 2018 with committing battery, racial defamation and rioting. Together with other fans of Sigma Olomouc they had been passengers on a tram in Prague on 4 November 2017 as they traveled to a Sigma Olomouc match with the Bohemians club.
A computer programmer of African descent who lives in Prague was also on the tram. According to the charges, he first had to deal with the football fans shouting racist insults at him, which he ignored.
"They yelled at him, calling him a 'black mug' and saying he should 'go back to Africa', that he has no business being here, and that he is an 'ugly, dirty nigger'," the prosecutor said during the hearing. The racist assailants are then said to have thrown two lemons at the Black man, after which a football fan squeezed one of the lemons onto him.
The Black passenger did his best to defend himself, but some of the football fans attacked him with punches and kicks. He ended up in a surgery ward with contusions to his head and nose as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The prosecutor sought two and a half years in prison for Černín and Uhlík and four years in prison for Satora, given the fact that he had committed rioting and attempted battery previously. While all three defendants admitted in court to having witnessed the assault on the Black man in the tram, they rejected the accusation of having participated in it.
The judge for the District Court in Prague 10 has acquitted the defendants three times because of an alleged lack of evidence of the crimes with which they were charged, but the appeals court had returned that verdict to her three times for review. For a fourth time she reduced the charges to misdemeanors, and even after the prosecutor filed a complaint against that verdict, the Municipal Court, which is the appeals venue, has now finally upheld the lower court ruling.
The Municipal Authority for Prague 10, according to the final verdict, is now being asked to adjudicate not the assault committed against the Black man, but the fact that the football fans involved chanted slogans on the tram, sang football songs, and disturbed their fellow passengers by doing so. "This decision by the Municipal Court in Prague is incorrect and demonstrates that the rights of a victim of a bias crime are absolutely meaningless to that court. The Czech justice system is actively contributing to the re-victimization of crime victims, and this case is a shining example of that," attorney Petra Vytejčková, representing the victim, posted to the Facebook page of the In Iustitia organization, which specializes in aiding the victims of hate crimes.
Re-victimization means that somebody is repeatedly victimized, either mentally or physically, by behavior that is criminal, traumatic or violent. The judge at the first-instance venue, according to the victim's attorney, did not respect the instructions of the supervising court even after the case was returned to her three times.
"The judge did not resolve the flaws in her decision that the supervising court reproached her with, but despite that, the Municipal Court in Prague has now upheld the supposed correctness of her ruling, absolutely incomprehensibly. To do so directly contravenes the supervising court's repeatedly expressed position that the perpetrators' behavior was criminal and was committed with biased motivation. This final decision by the Municipal Court in Prague is inconceivable," the attorney for the victim said.
As if that were not enough, the injured party learned of the final verdict from the media before the court had officially communicated it to him, which is yet another violation by the court of the obligation to protect a crime victim's rights. "After consulting my client I will consider what to next in this matter, including filing a constitutional complaint. We believe the right to an effective remedy has been violated in terms of how the European Court of Human Rights has adjudicated cases on that issue in the past," the attorney for the victim said.
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