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October 23, 2018
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Czech Constitutional Court rejects complaint from neo-Nazi convicted of 2012 arson

9.8.2018 6:10
The residential hotel in Aš shortly after the neo-Nazi arson attack (February 2012). (PHOTO:  František Kostlán)
The residential hotel in Aš shortly after the neo-Nazi arson attack (February 2012). (PHOTO: František Kostlán)

Czech Television reported on 7 August that the Czech Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint from neo-Nazi Tomáš Kopecký, who in 2012 committed arson against a residential hotel in the town of Aš where the tenants were Romani. At the time of his attack there were 18 people, eight of whom were children, in the building.

Fortunately, none of the inhabitants suffered physical injury, as they managed to put the fire out in time. Kopecký and his accomplice, Michal Poláček, were convicted of attempted racially-motivated murder and reckless endangerment.

Both perpetrators are currently serving six years and nine months in a maximum-security prison in Kynšperk nad Ohří. In his constitutional complaint, Kopecký states that his intention was not to kill the inhabitants of the residential hotel but just to intimidate them.

The Constitutional Court has now rejected his argument. "At the time of the attack, the defendants were also reconciled to the alternative that they would cause the deaths of persons located in the directly-attacked rooms. This intention is testified to by their choice to commit the attack at night, their choice of which side of the building to target, and especially by the specific steps that they undertook to do so," the Constitutional Court quoted from the Supreme Court's 2017 finding in the matter.

According to the Supreme Court, Kopecký had to have known that people sleeping in the residential hotel might die if it were set on fire. "There is no doubt that a person sleeping in a room where a fire has been set is in immediate danger of death, and not just from the fire itself, but also from aggressive toxic fumes," the Supreme Court wrote in its decision last year.

Kopecký and Poláček, according to the courts, committed their attack as adherents of the neo-Nazi, racist, Blood & Honour Division Bohemia and its militant offshoot, Combat 18 Bohemia. They poured gasoline around the doors to the facility and threw Molotov cocktails inside it.

Jan Balík, an alleged organizer of different neo-Nazi activities, was also convicted of involvement with the incident. According to the court file, he recruited members for those groups, contributed to and set up their web pages, and sold CDs, DVDs, sweatshirts, t-shirts and other paraphernalia featuring the activities and themes of neo-Nazi groups.

The organizer was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison and did not succeed with an appeal in which he expressed, for example, reservations about the way police wiretapped his communications . Another accomplice in the case who turned to the Supreme Court without success was the man who, according to a verdict that has taken effect, set fire to a wooden shack in Prague as part of the same general effort.

That perpetrator was given a suspended sentence. The Czech courts have had to adjudicate racially-motivated arson against residences occupied by Romani people more than once.

The most famous case is from April 2009, when four neo-Nazis threw three Molotov cocktails into a single-family home in Vítkov (Opava district). The courts sentenced the extremists involved to 20 and 22 years in prison.

vhl, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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