Czech court hands down suspended sentence for racist commentary on article about children's deaths and confiscates the computer used
A man who posted a racist comment beneath an online article about 2020's tragic fire in Bohumín, Karviná district, Czech Republic has been given a suspended prison sentence of one year, postponed for three years by the District Court in Ústí nad Orlicí. The man's computer was also confiscated.
Jiří Procházka, court spokesperson, informed public broadcaster Czech Television of the decision last month. The defendant was found guilty by court order.
The court order has taken effect. The 34-year-old was charged by police in January 2021.
"The case has been finally decided by court order, the defendant was sentenced to imprisonment for one year with a postponement for a probationary period of three years and forfeiture of one item - the computer," Procházka told Czech Television. On 8 August 2020, 11 people, including several children, died in a fire in a prefabricated apartment building in Bohumín in the Karviná district.
Prague Police spokeswoman Eva Kropáčová stated that the accused wrote and subsequently posted comments of a hateful, racist nature about the people living in the affected apartment. Detectives charged the man with defaming a nation, race, ethnic or other group and with approving of a crime.
"The comments clearly showed that he approved of the crime and expressed moral support for its perpetrators," Kropáčová said. Radek Velička, the editor-in-chief of Vlastenecké noviny ["Patriotic News"], was also indicted for authoring the article about the fire.
Velička refused to accept the sentence imposed on him at the end of June 2021 by the District Court in Ostrava through court order. He stated in the article that both the victims of the fire and the alleged perpetrator of the arson were Romani and referred to the deceased as "harmful" and "parasites".
The ROMEA organization, which publishes news server Romea.cz, and the first vice-chair of the Pirate Party, Czech MP Olga Richterová, then filed criminal complaints against Velička and the others who wrote and posted racist comments beneath his article. It was published on the right-wing extremist portal with the headline "Eleven g*psies less. Some of it burned up and some of it jumped out of the window" and described the children who were victims of this tragedy as a "g*psy litter" and persons of Romani origin as "overpopulated parasites", using the phrase "g*psy barbecue" to describe the fire.
Velička filed an appeal against the court decision, suspending the verdict, and the court must order a classic public trial in which his guilt or innocence and possible punishment are to be decided. After the criminal report was filed and police began investigating the case, the Vlasteneckenoviny.cz website was no longer updated and is now completely inoperable.
The Pirate Party's analytical team, in cooperation with the ROMEA organization, mapped the most insidious and brutal comments posted online in response to the fire and Richterová and a representative of the ROMEA organization then filed a criminal complaint against the then-unknown perpetrators. The Pirates also communicated with some of the relatives of the victims, who could not conceal their horror over the response to the deaths.
"It is completely crazy to me that someone is celebrating an arson attack just because the victims may have been Romani. After all, human beings are people first and foremost. Such efforts to create intolerance against any minority corrode the functioning of our society. If we want to judge people, then it should not be by their nationality, but by their deeds. This is absolutely analogous to the case of the hospital shooting in Ostrava [in 2019], after which an article appeared on a disinformation website alleging that tragedy was somehow the result of a 'Jewish war'. The Pirates filed a criminal complaint in that case and we will proceed uncompromisingly in other cases as well,” Richterová commented last year.
"Posting racist comments in online debates involving speculation that a perpetrator may be Romani or that the victims could have been Romani is completely unacceptable. Wishing that young children would burn to death is an absolute monstrosity and the relevant authorities must start taking action... However, it is also necessary to recall what role some media outlets played in this case. Publishing false 'information' alleging the arsonist was Romani without any verification is a huge professional error and failure. Moreover, they did so at a moment when the nationality of the perpetrator or victims, in the case of the mass murder in Bohumín, was simply unimportant because it was not relevant to the crime," said the director of ROMEA, Zdeněk Ryšavý, when filing the criminal report last year.
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