Czech Republic: Romani NGO founder says his trial proved nothing
Ladislav Bílý, who is appealing a verdict sentencing him to six years in prison for alleged subsidy fraud, has provided news server Romea.cz an essential statement on the case. Bílý made the statement as part of online discussions posted beneath the articles on Romea.cz about the verdict and in discussions posted to social networking sites. Some discussants believe Bílý misused the finances of the Romani Civic Association in Karlovy Vary, bu he denies those charges in his statement.
"The court has not punished me for misusing a subsidy to my personal benefit or that of others. All of the subsidies were accounted for as they should have been and we invested them into the project we were implementing during those years.
The trial also did not provide any evidence that I ever falsified an official document. What I was convicted of was submitting a falsified official document on the organization's solvency in my role as chair and legal representative of the organization.
By submitting that document, I allegedly won a subsidy fraudulently. Even though no harm has been done to anyone - no money is missing anywhere, because all of the financing was invested as per the subsidy contract (and was subsequently accounted for) - this punishment has been handed down against me.
That financing assisted not only many Romani people, but also other socially vulnerable people in the Karlovy Vary region. Despite this, the donors want their subsidy (the money) back. That is what is causing the biggest problem in this whole affair.
What the journalists are writing is just editorializing. They are blowing this out of proportion and misinforming people so they can show everyone how 'Gypsies steal their money'.
I know only one thing: I'm their whipping boy and their first example. I believe - not that I wish this on anyone - that after me it will be the turn of many other Romani organizations," Bílý has written.
According to the verdict, Bílý must spend six years in prison and repay almost CZK 10 million. The Regional Court in Plzeň found him guilty of subsidy fraud and falsifying documents. Bílý immediately appealed the verdict.
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