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Czech Republic: Has a Romani man died as a result of police brutality?

Kynšperk nad Ohří (Sokolov district), 9.5.2012 20:13, (ROMEA)

The case reported by the Czech media of an "aggressive man" from Kynšperk nad Ohří is slowly starting to turn into a case of a Romani man assaulted by police. Ludovít Kašpar, a 33-year-old father of three, passed away on Sunday at a hospital in Sokolov. According to initial reports, which have yet to be confirmed, he was beaten by police officers prior to his hospitalization.

Rudolf Kompár, who has been looking into the incident in Kynšperk, delivered the results of his investigation to news server Romea.cz: "Police officers arrested Ludovít Kašpar. They handcuffed him and then attacked him, kicking him and beating him in other ways as well."

Ján Sivák, who is Kašpar's father-in-law, described the incident to Romea.cz, based on what he has heard from eyewitnesses, as follows: "Ludovít was mildly tipsy and he elbowed some woman - he didn't harm her at all, but she called the police. The officers arrived, handcuffed him, and started beating and kicking him. They are said to have used either stun guns or truncheons, it's not clear yet."

Romea.cz has done its best to get the other side's point of view. Police in Kynšperk nad Ohří referred us to the spokesperson for Sokolov district, who referred us to the spokesperson for the Karlovy Vary region, who referred us to the Inspector-General of the Security Forces, which is now investigating the case. Spokesperson Radka Sandorová had no comment to make on the case, saying it is under investigation and that any remarks made now would be purely speculative.

Andrea Kávová of the Karlovy Vary Regional Police Directorate said the following to the local daily, Karlovarský deník: "We got a call that the man concerned was attacking people. After the officers arrived, he attacked them as well. That is why they used force against him and handcuffed him. At that moment he lost consciousness and was unresponsive."

The hospital in Sokolov has confirmed to us that Ludovít Kašpar has passed away. "The autopsy will be performed at the court medical department before long," hospital spokesperson Petra Soukupová told news server Romea.cz.

Barbora Silná, spokesperson for the regional emergency medical services, confirmed to Romea.cz that they had been called to Kynšperk nad Ohří. "Just before midnight our crew, including a nurse, set out for the scene. A doctor was then also called there. He told me that after he arrived at the scene, the officers present were resuscitating the man concerned."

Ján Sivák, Kašpar's father-in-law, has different information about that moment: "According to my information, the officers drove away without helping him. The witness who called the ambulance saw them leave. The ambulance arrived and the crew did its best to revive him."

Kašpar's heart had stopped and he wasn't breathing. After roughly 20 minutes, doctors managed to revive him. "We took him to the intensive care unit at the Sokolov hospital. He had numerous welts on his body," Silná said.

For the time being it is not known what caused the man's heart to stop, nor is the cause or origin of the welts known. According to Sivák, Ludovít Kašpar had left his home that evening in fine health without a scratch on him.

What does Sivák think of the officers? "I don't think anything good of them," he said. "Something like this is just not done, official police methods should be used during an intervention. These days this could happen to anyone."

Some media outlets reported on the case on Sunday without mentioning that the man concerned is of Romani origin. They did, however, report the claims that the man had been aggressive - without bothering to verify them.

"This is interesting - when a Romani guy gets into a fight at school with a white guy, the newspapers are immediately full of reports about how poorly raised Romani children are. Newspapers and television are constantly feeding the public cases of Romani people committing violence, some of which are even fabricated. This reporting is completely disproportionate to the number of crimes committed by Romani people versus those committed by majority-society people. However, when a Romani man is attacked, his ethnicity is not publicized. Instead, they write that he was an aggressive man whom officers arrested in accordance with the law - he just happened to collapse on them when they were handcuffing him," said a Romani man who was involved in the incident, but does not want to give his name.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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