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September 24, 2021



Czech prosecutor seeks just four years in prison for fanatic who caused train crashes

9.1.2019 17:42
Jaromír Balda, accused of committing two terrorist attacks on trains, in court on 7 January 2019.  (PHOTO:  Czech Television)
Jaromír Balda, accused of committing two terrorist attacks on trains, in court on 7 January 2019. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

The Czech prosecutor is seeking four years in prison for senior citizen Jaromír Balda, who felled trees across railway lines on two separate occasions, causing two train accidents. Today the prosecution proposed that the Central Bohemian Regional Court hand down a sentence that is less than the legally allowed minimum for that of a terrorist attack because of the man's allegedly reduced sanity.

The defense, on the other hand, is asking that his client be given a suspended sentence on charges of reckless endangerment. The court has remanded Balda into custody and will announce its verdict on Monday.

"The defendant wanted responsibility for these attacks to be attributed to Muslim immigrants," prosecutor Martin Bílý said in his closing arguments. He reminded the court that the 71-year-old Balda had also disseminated threatening fliers intended to create the impression that they had been written by jihadis.

According to the prosecution, the defendant intended to spark fear of Muslims among the general population. He caused the first train accident at the beginning of June 2017 on the line between Bakov nad Jizerou and Mladá Boleslav, then caused the second accident less than two months later, this time between the stations of Bělá pod Bezdězem and Bezděz.

In addition to train personnel there were nine passengers on the first train and six on the second. Nobody was harmed, but engineers and experts said it was just a question of random good luck that the trains did not derail.

According to the sentencing guidelines, Balda faces between five and 15 years in prison for committing a terrorist attack and for threatening the crime of terrorism. A sentence that would be less than four years, including a suspended sentence, cannot be considered, in the prosecutor's view, because the man's actions were quite dangerous to society.

The prosecutor is also seeking outpatient psychiatric treatment for Balda and the confiscation of the items used to commit the crimes, his computer and his saw. The senior citizen's attorney, Aleš Tolnay, argued that his client could not have scared anybody by disseminating his fliers because "in and of themselves they were rather ridiculous."

That behavior, according to the defense, should be considered a misdemeanor. As for his felling the trees across the rail lines, the defendant's lawyer said the terrorist element of that behavior was not intended seriously, so the act performed was rather one of reckless endangerment than a terrorist attack.

Balda has admitted committing these actions but alleges he never wanted to harm anybody. He repeatedly emphasized that at the time he committed these deeds he was on blood pressure medication that had the side effect of inducing nightmares about refugees.

"Under no circumstances did I want to commit terror. I wanted to awaken the greatest possible resistance to it," the defendant repeated today to the judges.

According to experts from the fields of psychiatry and psychology, Balda does not suffer from any mental ailments such as psychosis, but given his age and his health difficulties, he has an organic personality disorder that has influenced his behavior by, among other things, lowering his intellect and worsening his capacity for judgment. At the time of the crime, the defendant was said to have only half of his cognitive capabilities, while his ability to control himself was essentially reduced.

Balda was described to the court as argumentative, paranoid and suspicious. Despite all this, experts believe he was capable of realizing the consequences of his actions.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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