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Czech court upholds suspended sentence for man who called for non-white first-graders to be gassed to death

7.10.2020 7:32
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.

The suspended sentence for the author of hateful commentaries on social media posted beneath a photograph of first-graders attending a primary school in Teplice has now taken effect. The Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem has rejected the appeal of defendant Vítězslav Kroupa, who was sentenced for his hate speech on Facebook by the District Court in Teplice to 16 months in prison, suspended for three years.

The verdict has now taken effect and there is now only one other judicial option through which the defendant can complain about the outcome. "The appeals court reviewed the verdict in question and did not find the appeal justified," Judge Tomáš Plha said.

"There is no dispute over the fact that freedom of speech is constitutionally guaranteed, but such freedom is not boundless, it must not be abused and exploited in order to make extreme pronouncements, as in the case of the defendant," the judge said. The first-grade class at the Plynárenská Primary School was predominantly attended by children of Arab and Romani origin.

Kroupa posted his hateful commentary on social media beneath the children's class photograph in 2017. The District Court in Teplice first acquitted him one year ago, arguing that it had not been proven that he was the author of the speech in question.

That verdict was overturned on appeal and the case was returned to Teplice in order to complete discovery of the relevant facts. Judge Plha at the Regional Court has now ruled that the District Court in Teplice has followed all of the instructions of the appeals venue in that regard.

The District Court in Teplice pronounced its conviction of Kroupa in mid-July. According to the court, Kroupa made the following comments about the class photograph: "They're from the Plynárenská ["Gasworks"] Primary School. The solution is obvious."

According to Judge Lucie Yakut of the District Court in Teplice, it has been proven that the social media profile that published the comments belongs to Kroupa. He has been convicted of displaying sympathy for a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms and for the crime of inciting hatred against a group or inciting the restriction of their rights and freedoms.

Kroupa faced a prison sentence of anywhere between six months and three years for his actions and for the fact that he has posted the photographs of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring and the eagle of the German Reich holding a Nazi swastika on social media. Judge Yakut said a mitigating circumstance was the amount of time that has passed since the act was committed.

The judge did not consider the speech humorous, however. "Under no circumstances would it be possible to arrive at the conclusion that however inappropriate this comment by the defendant is, it constitutes a joke or a prank - this decidedly is not humor," Judge Yakut said.

According to Judge Plha, the appeals court also did not believe the comment could be read as a facetious work of art, as the appeals pleading argued. "The content of this commentary references a 'solution' in the form of murdering people in gas chambers, it is necessary to assess a reference to such a course of action as hate speech and incitement to hatred," he said.

Defense attorney Michael Mann had proposed additional evidence from an expert witness in the field of linguistics. The appeals court rejected that as superfluous.

"It is not possible to have any doubts as to the defendant's guilt," Judge Plha said. In his view, the kind of punishment handed down corresponds to the character and gravity of the felony committed.

 

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Extremism, Racism, Verdict, Xenophobia



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