Czech eyewitnesses to assault on African man say they fear for their lives if they testify
The District Court for Prague 10 is continuing the trial of the racist assault on an African man in Prague that happened in the autumn of 2017. News server Seznam.cz reports that eyewitnesses to the violence do not want to testify in court because they fear for their lives.
A group of fans of the Sigma Olomouc football team attacked the man, originally from West Africa, as they were all travelling by tram. He was hospitalized as a result.
Police arrested several of the assailants that same day and investigated them on suspicion of committing felony battery, felony defamation of an ethnic, national, racial or other group, and felony rioting. Last autumn the three main alleged attackers - Štěpán Černín, Tomáš Satora and Josef Richard Uhlík - went on trial.
From the beginning the court has had one basic problem with the case - a lack of eyewitnesses willing to testify. Most of the eyewitnesses who have testified are friends of the defendants and have either asserted that they recall nothing or never saw anything.
Other eyewitnesses do not want to testify in court because they fear for their lives. One crucial eyewitness gave testimony on 10 January on the condition of total anonymity.
The voice of the eyewitness was altered during the testimony. "A group of football fans got on the tram. They were drunk. They shouted racist things, for example, 'The Slavia football team are Jews'. Then they yelled 'Sigma Olomouc', so I understood they were from Olomouc," testified the eyewitness whose identity was concealed.
"A black man was sitting on the tram and they began to assault him. They shouted at him 'Nigger, go back to Africa'. Then they began to beat him. He attempted to defend himself. He grabbed one of the attackers. All of them had a go at him, though. They punched him in the head, they kicked him. It was very brutal," the eyewitness testified.
To this day the victim is still recovering and living in fear for his life. The court has not publicized the victim's identity.
Last year the victim also gave testimony in which his identity was concealed through special voice distortion technology. He is said to be a college-educated computer programmer who has been living and working in Prague for 10 years.
Police had a problem with a lack of eyewitnesses from the beginning of their investigation. Many eyewitnesses were unwilling to testify against the assailants after being summoned.
Of the dozens of passengers on the tram, just three who saw the entire incident remained at the scene. The court adjourned the hearings so an expert witness can be deposed, after which the entire case will apparently be brought to a close and the judges will be able to make their decision.
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