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July 20, 2019
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Czech gunman convicted of shooting Romani man moved from prison to temporary custody pending appeal

15.5.2019 7:10
Petr Benda, convicted of having shot a young Romani man to death in the summer of 2017 at a housing estate in Chomutov, is shown here during the main hearing of his trial on 4 April 2018. (PHOTO:  Tereza Heková)
Petr Benda, convicted of having shot a young Romani man to death in the summer of 2017 at a housing estate in Chomutov, is shown here during the main hearing of his trial on 4 April 2018. (PHOTO: Tereza Heková)

Petr Benda, the non-Romani resident of the Písečná housing estate in Chomutov who fired 13 rounds from a pistol in May 2017 at a Romani man, Radek Š., is no longer serving the prison sentence for that crime. News server Aktuálně.cz reported yesterday that the Czech Supreme Court has instructed that he be released from prison and placed him in temporary custody.

Last August the High Court in Prague reduced Benda's sentence on appeal from 12.5 years in prison to seven. Prosecutor Kateřina Boudová called the reduced sentence disproportionately mild.

The punishment handed down was less than the lower limit established by law for such a crime and the Supreme State Prosecutor filed an appeal seeking a tougher sentence for the shooter. Benda also appealed and asked for the charges to be reduced.

The Supreme Court dealt with both appeals on 30 April and, according to news server Aktuálně.cz, their hearings will now be held. "At this moment it is certain that no verdict has taken effect in this matter because the Supreme Court has transferred the defendant from serving that sentence back into temporary custody," Judge Jiří Bednář of the Ústecký Regional Court, which handled the first-instance case and has received a sub-report about this recent development, confirmed to the news server.

"At a minimum, the decision of the High Court must have been overturned," said the first-instance judge. The Supreme Court has not yet announced the details of how it has dealt with the appeals filings, so the further development of the case is still unclear.

If the Supreme Court has agreed with the prosecutor's appeal, then the next decision would just be about the length of the sentence. If, however, the Supreme Court has agreed with Benda's appeal, the entire case could head back to the Regional Court and the whole trial would begin all over again, including an opportunity to modify the charges.

Neither the relatives of the deceased nor their attorney were informed about the Supreme Court's course of action. "The attorney for the injured parties was not informed of the court's course of action. Any situation in which the injured parties learn from the media that a verdict has been overturned is a problematic one. They do not know what is happening and may experience feelings of anxiety, fear and injustice. Their being able to gradually come to terms with the loss of their son has now been delayed," attorney Klára Kalibová of the In IUSTITIA organization told news server Romea.cz.

"We must also not forget that it absolutely contravened the interests of the injured parties for the Supreme State Prosecutor to have refused to pay attention, in the appeal, to the reduction in the amount of damages to be paid to the injured parties that was instituted by the High Court's decision when it referenced the notion that the injured parties are somehow also culpable in this matter. The High Court's justification of that decision was not just absurd, it was inhumane. If the Supreme Court decides along those lines as well, and if guilt in this matter is to be reassessed, compensation for the damages caused will be reassessed as well," the attorney said.

The incident happened on 27 May 2017 at around 3 AM on Jirkovská Street near a block of prefabricated apartment buildings. Prior to the shooting, Benda was mistakenly informed by his mother that somebody was driving a vehicle into other cars on the street and was likely to hit people.

Benda looked out of the window and spotted a silver van driving along the street. He loaded his weapon, which he legally possessed, ran out in front of the apartment building, and without warning fired his entire clip into the driver's cab.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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detention facility, In IUSTITIA, Trial, Vražda



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