Czech activist acquitted of assaulting police officer
On 28 April the Municipal Court in Prague acquitted activist Kateřina Krejčová of allegedly assaulting a police officer at a demonstration. According to the verdict, the activist not only never intended to injure the officer, but could not have injured him even if she had wanted to.
The appeals court overturned the verdict of the Prague 1 District Court, which gave the activist a suspended sentence in February. She faced up to four years in prison for committing violence against a public official.
The appeals verdict has taken effect. The incident took place last July, when several hundred people were protesting immigration and the EU's proposed quotas for refugee reception in the center of Prague.
Some participants brought mock-ups of gallows inscribed with "For Treason" on them, as the demonstrators believed some Czech politicians had committed that crime through their decisions. Police officers intervened against counter-protesters who wanted to blockade the demonstrators' march.
Police claim they called on the counter-protesters to leave the area, but some counter-protesters, including Krejčová and her boyfriend, say police did no such thing. The 30-year-old activist, according to the indictment, assaulted an officer after he knelt on her boyfriend when her boyfriend was prone on the ground.
Allegedly the officer slammed Krejčová's boyfriend's head into the ground and knocked one of his teeth out. According to the indictment, Krejčová then jumped onto the back of the officer and dislocated his shoulder, with the officer later complaining of pain and spending a week on disability, allegedly because of a contusion around the shoulder joint.
"We have a different opinion regarding the hazard posed by the defendant's social behavior than that of the first-instance court," the presiding judge at the appeals court said on Thursday. The judge said she believed the activist's behavior should never have been brought before any court as she considered it to be absolutely minor.
According to the appeals court judge, the activist actually just "embraced" the police officer from behind and did not want to harm him. The judge also cast doubt on whether the activist had actually hurt the officer at all.
Krejčová defended herself by saying the police officers had abused her boyfriend and she had to intervene even though she knew she was exposing herself to the risk of criminal prosecution. Her attorney, Pavel Uhl, stated in his appeal that the court should assess to what degree an officer's power in such circumstances should be considered unlimited.
Uhl said he believed the activist had decided to act according to her conscience at a moment when she was making a "fast and fatal choice". He proposed she be acquitted.
The state prosecutor said that while there had been enough evidence to bring the case, he too doubted whether the activist had actually harmed the officer. He proposed reassessing her behavior as a misdemeanor.
While the prosecution had originally appealed the first-instance verdict and sought a stronger punishment for the defendant, that appeal was withdrawn on Thursday. Krejčová told journalists that same day that she was aware she had broken the law but that she stood by her actions.
The activist also said she had not committed any violence against any protected official because the officer's intervention against her boyfriend had been so disproportionate that it could not be considered covered by the laws protecting such officials. Lastly, she told the press that the officers had been biased against her opinions in favor of immigrants.
Krejčová said that after detaining her and bringing her to the police station, the officers explained to her that her opinions were wrong. "I got an hour-long political lecture from them," she said.
Igor Ševcov, who has been charged with attacking the home of Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnický (ANO), attended the appeals hearing to express support for Krejčová. On Wednesday he too was acquitted by the Municipal Court in Prague, but he has been ordered deported from the country for helping to spray-paint the wall of a prison in the Ruzyně quarter of Prague last May, an order that has yet to take effect.
Dozens of educators and students at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU), where Krejčová recently completed her doctorate in audiovisual studies, recently signed a letter supporting her. Representatives of the academy said her conviction in February was a sign of the growing sympathy among police units and state prosecutors for the displays of hatred and racism she was protesting against.
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