Czech court hands down three-year suspended sentence against man who approved of the Christchurch massacre
The Municipal Court in Prague has imposed a three-year suspended prison sentence with a five-year probation period on Zdeněk Sala, age 58, for promoting and supporting terrorism. In March 2019, the truck driver praised the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, who shot dead 50 human beings in two mosques.
The verdict has yet to take effect and both the convicted man and the prosecutor are considering possible appeals. Sala denies any guilt.
According to the indictment, Sala posted the commentary "Good for him, taking it to the Muslims" beneath an article about the New Zealand shooting published on the website zvrácený.cz ("perverse.cz"). According to the prosecutor, he committed the crime of promoting and supporting terrorism by so doing.
Prosecutor Miloš Klátik proposed sending him to prison for five years, but Judge Jarmila Pavlátová, like most judges considering such cases in the Czech Republic, imposed a suspended sentence. "This is an isolated example of such behavior by the defendant, in which he has approved of such a disgusting deed," she said.
According to the judge, it was not proven in court that Sala belonged or belongs to an extremist organization or has written similar comments before. However, she found him to be remorseless, so he has been given the highest possible sentence of the suspended type.
Sala denied his guilt at the main trial. "I never wrote anything like that," he testified.
The defendant argued that somebody else could have sent the comment from his IP address. His argument was not accepted by the court.
Promoting and supporting terrorism through a public communications network is punishable by anywhere between five and 15 years in prison. The Czech courts have so far imposed suspended sentences only on those who have expressed approval of the attack in Christchurch.
"Our legislation fails to gradate these crimes," argues Sala's lawyer, Aleš Choděra. "A sentence of five to 15 years is completely unreal, it does not correspond to the social danger of the act."
The judge also said Sala's act was not dangerous enough to justify sending him to prison. Australian right-wing extremist Brenton Tarrant shot dead 50 children, men and women when he attacked two Christchurch mosques in March 2019.
Tarrant broadcast his crime live on the Internet. He was charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and terrorism.
After initially denying his guilt, he unexpectedly confessed one year later. In August 2020, the court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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