Czech court says police officer who beat Romani worker did not commit a felony
The District Court in Česká Lípa handed down its decision on 11 September in the case of police officer Jiří Stejskal, who used a collapsible truncheon to beat a Romani man who was harvesting legally-grown technical cannabis in September 2015. The officers were intervening against a small group of temporary workers, all Romani, because they suspected they were harvesting illegal marijuana.
According to the verdict, the officer did not commit a felony and his superior should decide how to punish him for the intervention. He faced up to five years in prison for abusing the powers of a public official.
Stejskal was the commander, four years ago, of the intervention against the men whom police believed were illegal marijuana growers. The unsuspecting harvesters were sitting down and having a snack when police arrived at the field in Písečná u Dobranova.
According to the case file, Stejskal called on the workers to stand by the police vehicle. He thought one of the temporary workers, a 41-year-old man, was responding too slowly, so he grabbed him by the neck.
The man is said to have subsequently pushed Stejskal away, so the officer began to beat him with the collapsible truncheon. In February of this year presiding Judge František Jahůdka at the appeals venue in Liberec said that while Stejskal's intervention during that first phase had been disproportionate, it did not rise to the level of a felony.
"I have sent this matter to Mr Stejskal's superiors. They will assess whether this was a disciplinary misdemeanor or not, and eventually they can punish him. This was not, however, a felony," Judge Milan Vencl of the Česká Lípa District Court has now ruled, according to news server iDNES.cz.
The prosecutor still has the option to complain about the court's decree. "I don't believe she will, though. The trial turned out as she proposed," Radek Hlaváček, attorney for Stejskal, was quoted as saying by iDNES.cz.
The victim of Stejskal's beating was not in court. During a previous hearing, he admitted to responding slowly to the police's call to get up.
"I did respond, even if it was a delayed response. I told them the harvesting of technical cannabis was legal. They didn't want the documents. They just shouted that we had to stand next to the vehicle. I was not aggressive. I didn't even want to run away," the man who was beaten previously testified.
Stejskal will be allowed to remain on the police force - at the most he will be sent a written reprimand or his pay will be docked. His criminal record will remain clean.
The case has taken the courts four years to address, and according to iDNES.cz, the officer feels that has been punishment enough. The prosecutor had proposed a suspended sentence for him.
The incident happened on 29 September 2015 when the Romani temporary workers were harvesting technical cannabis, which does not contain the psychoactive material THC. The six officers had driven out to intervene at the request of a colleague from the Criminal Police that they investigate suspected illegal marijuana harvesting.
The judge mentioned that there were doubts as to whether the deployment had been legitimate. In his view, however, Stejskal cannot be blamed for following the orders of his superior.
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