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Czech court returns to case of hateful online comments about non-"white" first-graders, but witnesses fail to appear

20.5.2020 7:43
The photograph that sparked a wave of online racism. The faces and names of the pupils in the first grade of the Plynárenská School in Teplice, Czech Republic have been blurred in order to protect their identities.
The photograph that sparked a wave of online racism. The faces and names of the pupils in the first grade of the Plynárenská School in Teplice, Czech Republic have been blurred in order to protect their identities.

On Thursday, 14 May the District Court in Teplice was again meant to review the case of the hateful comments posted online beneath photographs of non-white first graders from the school on Plynárenská Street in Teplice, Czech Republic. According to the daily Mostecký deník, however, the summoned witnesses failed to appear in court, so the hearing was postponed until 8 June.

A new hearing in the case was ordered last October by the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem after it overturned an acquittal for one of the defendants. In April 2019 the court in Teplice acquitted a man who had written about gas chambers in his online comments, saying it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it was exactly he who had posted the remarks through that account - without even interrogating him.

The alleged author of the text had refused to testify in court. According to the Regional Court, however, the first-instance court in Teplce could have done much more, within the evidentiary phase, to alleviate any doubt.

"With regard to the findings of fact undertaken by the first-instance court, the appeals court has come to the conclusion that they are incomplete because it is necessary to undertake further proofs to clarify this case. If the Regional Court were to perform these proofs, it would mean the appeals venue would be doing the work of the first-instance court," the Regional Court ruled in October.

Vítězslav Kroupa, the alleged author of the comments, was to have been interrogated by the court in March, but he again refused to testify. The court subsequently interrogated a witness from Slovakia who has Kroupa among his Facebook friends, as well as a "Facebook girlfriend".

Those witnesses testified that they could recall almost nothing about the remarks being posted because they have many Facebook friends. The judge of the court in Teplice, as part of expanding the evidentiary phase, then summoned other witnesses for last Thursday's hearing.

None of the witnesses summoned appeared for the planned hearing. Kroupa is alleged to have posted the following comment beneath the children's photograph, which the prosecutor believes was a reference to the murders committed in gas chambers during the Second World War: "They're from the Plynárenská [Gasworks] Primary School, on top of it all. The solution is right there. Don't say it didn't occur to you!!!"

The prosecution has also accused Kroupa of posting photographs with Nazi subject matter to social media. For inciting hatred of a group or inciting infringement of their rights and freedoms, as well as for expressing sympathy for a movement aiming to suppress human rights and freedoms, Kroupa faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Extremism, Hate, Internet, Racism



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