Czech court sentences perpetrator to five years for racist assault on Romani man, both defense and prosecution considering appeal
The daily Novojičínský deník in the Czech Republic has reported that a 24-year-old man from Ostrava was sentenced to five years behind bars yesterday for assaulting another man in a bar in the Zábřeh quarter just because he was Romani. "He struck another person in the head with a beer glass just because that person was of Romani ethnicity," the presiding judge at the Regional Court in Ostrava said yesterday when announcing the verdict.
The defendant faced between five and 12 years in prison and was spared a stricter punishment because he had already expressed regret, apologized, and paid the victim CZK 50 000 [EUR 1 800] within the framework of a settlement agreement. The incident occurred in December 2019 in a bar where the current and former employees of a chain of refreshment shops were getting together before Christmas.
The perpetrator and victim had never met before. The Romani man had arrived for the get-together with his girlfriend, who is not Romani.
"She studies psychology. She was sitting at a table and chatting with that man," the Romani man testified.
"He said he wanted psychological advice. Then I heard him ask her why she was with a 'black fucker'," the Romani man told the court.
During the subsequent exchange of opinions between the two men, the perpetrator expressed racist insults toward the Romani man, called him a "nigger", and then hit him in the head with a beer glass, causing injuries that required approximately two weeks of treatment. The defendant described the beginning of the incident in court as follows: "He offered to shake hands with me, but I ignored the gesture."
"I didn't respond to that," the defendant said. He admitted to having behaved inapproporiately during his conversation with the young woman.
"I probably said something to the young woman that somehow insulted the injured party," the defendant admitted. However, he claimed to have been defending himself from attack when he struck the Romani man.
"He reached across the table, grabbed me beneath my neck and then slapped me in the face twice. I didn't anticipate that," the defendant testified.
"I probably gave him cause to assault me, but I'm not 100 % sure. I reacted emotionally, grabbed a glass and hit him with it," the defendant told the court.
The defendant did not deny having used racist insults. "The defendant was motivated by ethnicity," the presiding judge said, adding that such a conclusion had been confirmed by a great deal of evidence and testimony.
Any racial motivation is still denied by the defendant, however. "It might sound stupid, but even if that guy had been white I would have defended myself and broken a glass on his head," he said.
The defendant has, nevertheless, apologized for his behavior. "I am aware of what I did," said the young man, who took out a loan to pay the settlement.
"It was an error, I lost control, and it has really marked me for life. It will not happen again," the defendant told the court.
The defense did their best to convince the court, during closing arguments, that the incident had just been a boyish scuffle that did not require a prison sentence, but the court rejected that interpretation, referencing the fact that the young man had assaulted more than one person before while drunk. "[The defendant] has learned nothing from his previous punishments," the judge concluded.
The verdict has yet to take effect. Both the defendant and the prosecutor are considering appeals.
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