Czech Police officers accused of abusing power over disproportionate use of force against Romani workers
The Inspector-General of the Security Forces (GIBS) has accused Czech Police officers of abusing their power last September when they intervened against Romani agricultural workers in a field of legally-cultivated hemp near the village of Bukovany in the Česká Lípa district. News server Romea.cz reported the incident and developments in the case were published earlier this week by news server Novinky.cz, referring to information from the print edition of the Právo daily paper.
Radka Sandorová, spokesperson for GIBS, said a criminal prosecution of the intervening officers has been launched and that they face either being forbidden to work for the police or a prison sentence of up to five years in prison for the offense of abusing the power of a public official, if convicted. According to Radek Honzátko, an eyewitness who spoke with news server Romea.cz, the officers carried out a brutal intervention last September during which they behaved aggressively only towards the Romani workers who were present at the scene.
Honzátko was the only non-Romani worker in the field at the time of the police intervention, and the officers behaved toward him with restraint and allowed him to move around freely. The Romani workers, including one minor who attempted to defend his father, were beaten by police with collapsible truncheons and subjected to tear gas.
"I was about 100 meters away from where they intervened. Suddenly I heard shouting and I saw how other Romani people were running from the field toward that place in aid of the two men whom those officers were 'pacifying', so I ran over there too. I saw one of the officers pushing that boy's head into the ground with his boot. The officers did not assault me, they were only interested in the Roma. I moved around among the officers and did my best to calm the situation. The other Roma kept their distance," the eyewitness described the incident to Romea.cz.
"The police officers were very nervous. The Roma were behaving normally, they didn't assault anybody. I can testify that there was no aggression from the side of the Roma. The grandmother of the boy whose head the officer was walking on yelled at him to knock it off. I know these people, they are not aggressive people against whom it would be necessary to intervene in such a way," Honzátko told news server Romea.cz last year.
Jan Bešík, the owner of the field of technical hemp and the firm that processes it, filed a complaint with GIBS over the officers' procedure, as he believes the intervention against the workers was absolutely unjustified. "If offcers consider it necessary to use force, that's fine, but trampling somebody's head is, in my opinion, simply open violence that is unjustifiable," he told news server Romea.cz.
"In my opinion it's clear these officers were looking for a pretext to justify their intervention. They found nothing wrong, however," Bešík said last year.
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