Czech court fines politician for bribery and extortion in attempt to buy votes of Romani people
News server Aktuálně.cz has reported that on 24 February the Municipal Court in Prague upheld the first-instance conviction of a former council member of the Prague-Letňany Municipal Department, Jan Mikulecký (for the Civic Democratic Party - ODS), over events during the 2014 municipal elections. Mikulecký must now pay a fine of CZK 100 000 [EUR 3 700] for bribery and extortion or spend nine months in prison.
Mikulecký told the court he had been the victim of a sting operation. All he would admit responsibility for was having expressed himself in what he described as an unfortunate way.
Aktuálně.cz reports that Mikulecký extorted Petra Kavúrová, who was running for the competing "For Prague" (Pro Prahu) movement, forcing her to withdraw from the candidate list by threatening to cancel her husband's contract to clean the buildings at the local housing estate. At the time, Mikulecký was the chair of the homeowners' association there.
He promised Kavúrová that if she withdrew, her husband, Dušan Kavúr, would be commissioned to paint the cellar spaces on the estate for roughly twice the usual money paid for such a job (CZK 20 000 - EUR 740). The indictment also accused Mikulecký of wanting Kavúr, who wields significant influence in the large Romani community there, to convince Romani voters to choose him by paying them.
Kavúr was to offer Romani voters CZK 150 [EUR 5.55] per vote and earn a CZK 50 [EUR 1.85] commission on each vote cast. Instead, Kavúr recorded his conversations with Mikulecký and provided them to the police.
Prague Municipal Court Judge Alexandr Solotář said on 24 February that Mikulecký deserved an even more severe punishment than the first-instance court had handed down. The judge was not, however, able to prescribe a tougher sentence because it was not the state attorney who had appealed the first-instance verdict.
Mikulecký denies any guilt and, in addition to claiming that he had merely spoken clumsily, also alleged that the audio recording might have been manipulated. Because he refused to provide a recording of his voice to a court expert for review, the expert used an audio recording of a city council meeting for comparison and told the court that the voice on that recording and the voice on the recording made by Kavúr were both highly like to have been that of Mikulecký, in his opinion.
The court rejected the defendant's argument that the recording was made illegally and that it violated his personality rights. "This intervention into the defendant's personality rights is possible. It is sufficiently balanced by an interest in clarifying behavior that it is possible to assess as criminal by so documenting it," Judge Sotolář said.
Mikulecký was also charged with obstructing an election. The first-instance court ruled, however, that obstruction did not happen because Kavúr did not accept Mikulecký's offer.
Ultimately Mikulecký was elected to the local council, but subsequently resigned his post. Aktuálně.cz reported that the court found testimony given on behalf of Mikulecký by Prague-Letňany Mayor Ivan Kabický (ODS) was not credible.
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