Czech courts give suspended sentence to man who fired warning shots at Romani children
Martin Kout, the man indicted for having fired warning shots at a children's camp in Jiřetín pod Jedlovou (Děčín district) and having racially abused both those attending and organizing the camp in 2016, has been given a conditional sentence of six months, suspended for 12 months, and the weapon he used in the crime - categorized as that of rioting - has been confiscated. Romani children were attending the camp at the time.
Kout had previously refused to accept that he was guilty of any crime and faced a maximum sentence of two years in prison if convicted. The judge took into account the fact that he had no previous criminal record.
The verdict has not yet taken effect. Both the defense and the prosecution are considering whether to appeal.
The incident happened in the summer of 2016 at the site of a camp being attended by a Romani choir. Participants testified that Kout, the owner of property abutting the grounds of the camp, repeatedly fired a weapon into the air and castigated the children in the choir by shouting racist abuse at them.
"The children were, understandably, excited, so they were noisy when they were running past the neighbor's house, but that only lasted about a minute. That man burst out shouting: 'You black gypsies go to hell!' and similar slogans," choir director Ida Kelarová said in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
"After that, he fired into the air," the choir director said. She described him as having fired the weapon repeatedly.
Kelarová also witnessed Kout behaving aggressively on the grounds of the camp itself. Peter Bílý, who was attending the camp, said the shooting had terrified the children.
"The youngest ones ran into the kitchen to find us. They said somebody had fired a gun at them, some man," Bílý testified.
When Kout entered the grounds of the camp and argued with one of the organizers, Bílý was also present. "[Kout] called [the organizer] a gypsy fucker and a faggot," Bílý told the court.
Kout initially denied being guilty of any criminal behavior and claimed that he had fired his weapon into the air while training his dog. The court did not believe that explanation.
The property was previously used by the Kout family just as a vacation cottage, but they have been residing there full-time for about eight years now. Kout's neighbor, Přemysl Mastík, confirmed testimony given by Kout's family members that noise from the grounds of the camp can be heard almost constantly when it is open.
Mastík testified that the choir at the camp in 2016 were noisy as well. "[The noise] was above the norm of what is tolerable," he said.
"It was once again commented on by the citizens of Jiřetín, who asked what was going on at the camp yet again, because you could hear the drums all the way on the town square," Mastík said. He testified that noise from the camp was constant, with the exception of meal breaks.
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