Czech Republic: Sellers of plaques from Terezín convicted
The District Court in Litoměřice has sentenced two men to suspended sentences of between 10 and 12 months and one man to a year in prison without the possibility of parole for selling bronze plaques with the names of victims from the National Cemetery at Terezín to a scrap metal dealer. The court did not find the men guilty of having stolen the plaques.
Two of the three defendants, Miroslav Daňo and Libor Mirga, were present in court. The third defendant, Petr Hricko, was convicted and sentenced in absentia and is considered a fugitive from justice.
This is the third time the case has been heard by the Litoměřice court; the sale occurred in 2008. The three men were originally convicted of stealing the plaques, worth CZK 1.7 million, and sentenced to 4.5, 4, and 3.5 years in prison respectively.
The Regional Court overturned that verdict on appeal. In 2013, the court convicted the trio of concealing stolen property and gave them the same sentences they have now been awarded for having sold stolen property.
The 2013 judgment was also overturned on appeal and the case was returned to the lower court to be re-heard. Miroslav Daňo was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years, and Hricko was sentenced in absentia to 10 months, suspended for two years, on those charges.
It is unclear where Hricko is located now. The court has issued a European arrest warrant for him.
"We did not succeed in reliably proving that the defendants stole the plaques from the National Cemetery. However, I am convinced that they were aware of the illegal origin of the goods," State Proseuctor Josef Zronek said in his closing argument this week.
The court agreed with his opinion. "It had to have been obvious that those items were from a remembrance site," presiding Judge Jaroslav Svobdoa said when explaining this most recent verdict.
Daňo and Mirga said they regret their actions. "I am sorry about it all and I would like to make up for all of the harm caused," Mirga told the court; he was the only defendant not to receive a suspended sentence.
The court has also ordered Mirga to begin serving a sentence handed down against him in a separate matter by the District Court in Most in 2009. Daňo was arrested in Great Britain at the end of December 2014 on the basis of a European arrest warrant and transported back to the Czech Republic; he has asked to be released from custody.
The court rejected his request because the verdict against him has not yet taken effect, among other reasons. The attorney for one of the defendants and the state prosecutor are considering appeals.
In April 2008, 824 bronze plaques with the names of victims disappeared from the cemetery. The Terezín Memorial estimated the damages at CZK 1.7 million.
The plaques ended up in a scrap metal yard in Nehasice na Lounsku. The defendants were paid CZK 60 000 for them.
The Terezín Memorial managed to repair the entire cemetery by April 2009, replacing the missing bronze plaques with bronze-covered plastic facsimiles. CCTV cameras and lighting were also installed at the cemetery.
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