Czech court returns to case of hate speech online targeting non-"white" first-graders
On 3 March the District Court in Teplice, Czech Republic returned to the case of the hateful commentaries posted online beneath the class photograph of first-graders at a local primary school. The first-instance acquittal verdict has since been overturned by the appellate court and the case has been returned to the first instance.
The person indicted for posting the content, Vítězslav Kroupa, is refusing to testify in court. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted of this offence and also for the fact that he has posted photographs of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and the Nazi Reich eagle holding the Nazi swastika to his social media accounts.
The class photo from the Plynárenská Primary School showed that the class is composed predominantly of children who are of Arab, Romani, and Vietnamese background. A discussion began beneath it online during which the defendant is said to have posted comments which, according to the indictment, referenced the murder of Jewish people during the Second World War in the gas chambers [Translator's Note: The word Plynárenská, which is the name of the street on which the school is located, means "Gasworks"].
The Facebook post read: "They're from the Plynárenská Primary School, after all. The solution is right there. Don't say it didn't occur to you!!!"
According to the indictment, that comment was written because several of the children depicted were from non-Czech ethnic groups. The appellate court has reproached the first-instance court for never interrogating Kroupa.
"I will not testify," Kroupa has told the court. The court subsequently interrogated a witness from Slovakia who had Kroupa among his "friends" on Facebook.
That witness said he was seeing Kroupa in person for the first time in court and that he knew him from Facebook. "I cannot recall how I met the defendant, I have 5 000 Facebook friends," that witness testified.
As for the submitted photo-documentation from the Facebook page, the Slovak witness told the court he could not recall whether he ever saw the post at issue. The Czech Police, on the basis of the court's request, ascertained the identity of just four of the people involved in posting such comments from the Facebook profile.
Another witness told the court she had been asked to become Facebook friends by a person with a profile called "Vítězslav Kroupa". As for the submitted photo-documentation of the posts from the profile called "vita kroupa", the witness told the court she could not recall having seen them and she did not react to them at all.
That witness testified that she has 4 500 Facebook friends. She had not noticed the commentaries beneath the photograph of the first-graders in Teplice until the media reported about them.
The indictment accuses Kroupa of the tort of displaying sympathy for movements aiming to suppress human rights and freedoms and the tort of inciting hatred against a group of persons or inciting the limitation of their rights and freedoms. Last April the prosecutor proposed he be imprisoned for roughly two years, with a probationary suspension.
Kroupa's defense proposed he be acquitted. Judge Lucie Yakut, in her acquittal verdict last April, said it had not been proven that the defendant had committed the act in question.
According to the judge, it had not been demonstrated that the Facebook profile called "vita kroupa", from which the commentary and the photograph of Hitler and that of the Nazi Reich eagle holding a Nazi swastika in its claws, actually belonged to the defendant. The trial will continue on 6 April.
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