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Czech President Klaus: Arsonists' sentences "unexpectedly high"

Prague, 21.10.2010 23:47, (ROMEA)

Yesterday Czech President Václav Klaus, when asked by news server Novinky.cz for his reaction to the sentencing in the Vítkov arson case, said the following: "The length of the sentences seems unexpected to me, unexpectedly high. I am just thinking about whether the length of such sentences, compared to some of the requests for clemency I receive, will really be the most correct way to prevent such phenomena from recurring."

Roman Joch, human rights adviser to Czech PM Petr Nečas (ODS), told news server Lidovky.cz that if the Czech penal code allowed the death penalty, the Vítkov arsonists would deserve it. According to Lidovky.cz, Joch considers the sentences of 22 and 20 years to be adequate. As for PM Nečas, he made a point of saying the high sentences are in order. He believes the young men's crime to have been "serious" and said that they "should have been convicted".

"An intentional arson attack on a residence where children are living who then face the possibility of being burned alive, in my opinion, deserves the death penalty," Joch told news server Lidovky.cz. In his view the court definitely did not overdo the sentencing. "This was precisely the kind of attack that deserves the harshest possible punishment. The men who didn't even express regret deserve life in prison," the server quotes him as saying.

John Bok, a famous Czech human rights defender, also agrees with the sentencing. "No matter how terrible a house might look, you must expect that it might have people in it. The fact that the attack did not produce even worse results does not excuse the perpetrators. They endangered many people," Bok told news server Lidovky.cz. "The sentences must correspond to the individuals' behavior, which was brutal. These sentences are commensurate to the crime."

"When you realize that the girl will be in agony for the rest of her life because of what they did, those sentences don't seem like much," dissident Dana Němcová, a former member of the Czech Government Human Rights Council, told Lidovky.cz. "I was also reflecting on the sentences from the standpoint of possible redress, and I'm not very sure whether they serve that purpose," Němcová said.

According to Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), the Czech Republic would be "regressing to prehistoric times" if it were considered possible to set fire to the homes of innocent children. Czech Interior Minister Radek John (Public Affairs) said the ministry has been very successful in the fight against extremism in recent years and intends to continue. "We believe such deterrent verdicts are useful," he told news server Lidovky.cz.

Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, Lidovky.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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