Czech Republic: Romani youth beaten by police says officers told him he would die
"I feared for my life," a Romani 19-year-old who recently experienced the worst date of his life told news server Romea.cz - the incident resulted in his fleeing through a forest at night and ended with his being unfit to return to work for more than a month. Nicolas Kurej contacted the ROMEA organization, which provides aid to victims of discrimination and hate violence, claiming he had been beaten up in two locations, one of them a forest on the outskirts of Prague, in a brutal way by three men, two of whom were uniformed police officers from the Prague 14 Local Department of the Police of the Czech Republic.
The third assailant is allegedly a former police officer. The beating is said to have included racist abuse as well.
According to the testimony of the victim, the incident took place in the late night hours of 29 January and the early morning hours of 30 January at the Hloubětín housing estate and then in a nearby forest. The victim and his parents fear the situation may be repeated and that the attackers will take revenge because Kurej has reported the incident.
The victim's testimony begins with him and his 16-year-old girlfriend paying to stay the night in a residential hotel in Hloubětín. At midnight someone banged on the door to the room and announced "Police, open up!"
Kurej said he opened the door and saw three men in the corridor, two in police uniforms, and his girlfriend's mother. She is said to have dragged her daughter out of the bedroom and Kurej remained in the room alone with the man who was not in uniform.
"Before they left me alone with him, one of the officers told him to make sure there was no bloodshed," Kurej recalls. "The guy kept asking me about some gold jewelry. I told him I didn't have any and said he could search my things. Then he grabbed me by the hair and threw me on the bed. I started to shout for help."
The two uniformed men are said to have then entered the room and the mother turned up there as well with her daughter, who was crying and frightened. One of the officers then allegedly punched Kurej in the abdomen and instructed the group that they would go elsewhere to settle the matter.
Kurej said he obeyed the officer's orders to pack up his things and they all headed down to the reception area to return the key to the room. He said that when they were all outside the residential hotel, his girlfriend attempted to explain to her mother that she had taken the golden chain the officer was looking for.
As she was explaining this, police are said to have taken her boyfriend to their vehicle, where he was placed in the back seat. Kurej said he felt ill after the blows to his abdomen and asked the officers to call an ambulance.
"I felt sick and I asked them for medical aid, but they just laughed. What's more, they began to say we were going into the forest and that I would be bidding farewell to my life there. I was really frightened then," Kurej said.
The police vehicle is said to have driven for a few moments before stopping near a grove of trees. A vehicle driven by the man in civilian clothing also reportedly pulled up there with Kurej's girlfriend and her mother inside.
"The man in civilian clothes grabbed me under my throat by my sweatshirt and pulled me out of the police car. I shouted for him to leave me alone and I did my best to hang on to the back of the seat, but he was much stronger than me and I was suddenly lying on the ground next to the car," Kurej said.
He alleges that the man, whose fists were wrapped in some kind of fabric, proceeded to punch him in the head, kick him and even stomp on his abdomen. He also says that both the girl's mother and the police officers watched him doing this.
When the man stopped beating him, Kurej said he got himself together after a moment and used his last strength to run through the forest toward the metro station, where he saw two municipal police officers at a nearby tram stop and described to them what happened. He said these other officers showed no interest in providing him aid, so he got onto the night tram and went home.
Kurej's parents immediately telephoned his girlfriend, who confirmed his story and identified the man who had beaten Kurej up in the forest as her own mother's boyfriend, giving them his name. His parents then called the Prague 14 police and took Kurej to a hospital.
Phone call from police: "This should never have happened"
Kurej's mother received a telephone call from the police the next day which she says took her breath away. "A police officer called from Prosek who had my son's identification card. He said the card had just turned up in their mailbox. At the same time, I could tell that he knew what had happened the night before. The officer told me that he was sorry and that it should never have happened," she said.
The officer drove to their home in a police vehicle that same day to return the identification card. Kurej is of the opinion that his (now ex-)girlfriend's mother was the organizer of the brutal attack.
The mother is said to have disapproved of her daughter going out with a Romani youth. Allegedly, when she learned that her daughter had taken a gold chain of hers and was supposed to be spending the night with Kurej outside the home, she took advantage of her own boyfriend's contacts (according to information obtained by ROMEA, her boyfriend is himself a former police officer) to raise the alarm with two members of the police force from Černý Most.
Kurej's loved ones are frightened by what he says happened. "Nicolas is no saint, but I am certain he never committed anything that would have justified those men - police officers, no less - taking him into a forest and beating him up like that," an aunt of his told news server Romea.cz.
Kurej has given a statement to the police in Prague 8. At the start of February he was informed that when their investigation was completed they sent the case for evaluation to the Inspector-General of the Security Forces (GIBS) to determine whether it rises to the level of felony abuse of the powers of a public official.
A staffer with news server Romea.cz attempted to get a statement from police officers at the Prague 14 Local Department of the Police of the Czech Republic on the incident. The head of the department, First Lieutenant Bambousek, refused to give a statement on the matter at this time.
"We will not be making a statement until after the Inspector-General of the Security Forces publishes the results of its investigation" Bambousek said. Kurej will be visiting GIBS soon, where he will be giving another statement about the assault.
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