Czech convicted of racially-motivated murder of Romani man is running for mayor
News server Novinky.cz reports that Vlastimil Pechanec, the convicted murderer who spent 13 years in prison for the racist murder of a Romani man named Otto Absolon at a discotheque in the town of Svitavy, is now running in the upcoming local elections as the leader of a movement calling itself "For a Safe Svitavy" (Za bezpečné Svitavy) and as a candidate for the Workers Social Justice Party (DSSS), of which he is a member. Pechanec was sentenced in 2003 to 17 years for the 2001 murder.
The court justified the length of the sentence by referencing the fact that the crime had a racist motive, as well as referencing expert witness testimony. Forensic psychologists told the court that Pechanec was a person whom it would be difficult to reform.
In June 2014, however, Pechanec was paroled after serving 13 years and given a six-year probation period. He has never admitted his guilt and is depicted by the ultra-right scene as a hero and a victim of the justice system's machinery.
A protest march has been held annually in Svitavy against Pechanec's imprisonment, organized first by right-wing radical individuals and then primarily by adherents of the DSSS. The march route has always led past the housing estate where most Romani residents of Svitavy live, and those demonstrating have customarily chanted anti-Romani slogans.
"Let's show our strength"
"[Pechanec] was meant to run two years ago for Regional Governor, then his mother ran instead," a DSSS member in Svitavy told the Czech daily Právo. "That was just a test, now we will show our strength in Svitavy."
The Executive Vice Chair of the DSSS, Jiří Štěpánek, has confirmed that Pechanec is running for the party, as are other "patriots". "In the autumn local elections more than 400 of our patriots will compete for seats on local assemblies," he told Právo.
Despite the claims of the DSSS, the leaders of other parties running in Svitavy are not concerned about Pechanec as a serious competitor. "I do not think he will get a seat on the local assembly," Mayor David Šimek, the leader of the Association for the Town of Svitavy, told Právo.
"There are just nine people on the candidate list of Pechanec's movement," Šimek said. Czech Television reported in 2016 that the Czech Constitutional Court rejected as manifestly unfounded a complaint filed by Pechanec against a March 2016 ruling by the High Court in Prague refusing to reopen his trial.
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