Czech Republic: Trials continue in Duchcov scandals
Scandal #1: Revenge attack against those organizing anti-Romani demonstrations
Last Thursday and Friday the court in Teplice reviewed last year's crusade by four Romani people in Duchcov who were seeking bloody revenge for an anti-Romani demonstration organized there and who ended up injuring two evidently randomly selected antagonists one night. No verdict has yet been announced.
More witnesses are scheduled to give testimony in the case. The next hearing will be held in two weeks.
According to the prosecution, the four Romani men also wanted to revenge themseves for the fact that police had arrested a relative of theirs after an attack against a married couple had been committed on the streets of Duchcov in May. A video recording of that brutal assault was disseminated online.
The four Romani men set out on that fateful night of 13 July to find the initiator of several anti-Romani demonstrations in Duchcov, Jindřich Svoboda. Two other men crossed their paths instead.
The interaction was first a verbal skirmish that became a tussling match, after which both non-Romani men ended up in the hospital and had to be treated for several days. None of the alleged Romani assailants has confessed to committing the attack.
In their defense, several of the alleged assailants have testified that their accusers are lying. "There was no reason to offend and mistreat him," defendant Jaroslav Ferko told the judge in the courtroom on Thursday.
Ferko is on trial together with his brother Radoslav and co-defendants David Bledy and Ladislav Feri. Bledy is the father of two of the people who allegedly committed the assault in May on the married couple in Duchcov.
That brutal case has not yet made it to trial. It is scheduled to do so at the end of February.
It was precisely that fateful moment in May that unleashed everything to follow in Duchcov. The anti-Romani demonstrations followed as a result of that particular incident.
The court first heard testimony in mid-July about the scuffle of the four Romani men who were seeking revenge. The defendants did not deny that motivation at the time.
They initially testified that they had intended to speak with the initiator of the anti-Romani demonstrations, allegedly to clear the air with him. During this most recent hearing it was the turn of both victims to testify to the court, as well as other witnesses, including the intervening local and state police.
The judge also listened to the conclusions drawn by medical expert Andrea Vlčková. On the basis of medical reports from the police investigation and photographs taken after the assault, she stated that the victim's facial areas had evidently been either kicked or punched by their attackers.
However, the expert also pointed out that no injuries of a more serious nature had been caused. "In both cases these were light injuries without greater repercussions," she said, adding that the physical violence, most probably punches, was evident from the way the injuries had been caused to the victims' faces.
A group of Romani residents from Duchcov who are relatives of the defendants attended the trial. Speaking to representatives of the Deník daily in the hallway of the courthouse, they said the entire matter had been unnecessarily exaggerated.
"Yes, something happened in May, but what happened after that was unnecessary. It's just because we're gypsies," one Romani woman at the courthouse in Teplice told the daily.
The medical expert also testified that one of the victims suffered contusions on his back. The injuries confirmed that the attack had been launched from behind the victim's back.
The medical expert refuted the claim that the facial injuries could have been caused to the two men just by their having fallen to the sidewalk after being shoved from behind. Judge Jaroslav Malchus expects to close the case two weeks from now and to issue a final verdict and sentencing for the four alleged assailants.
One defendant in the case was also finally released from custody on Monday, 13 January. He will attend the next hearing.
Scandal # 2: Assault on a married couple
The Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem has released a 16-year-old alleged assailant from custody who is suspected of having started the attack perpetrated by a group of Romani people on a married couple in Duchcov, an incident that exacerbated tensions in the town and launched a series of demonstrations there. The youth was the last of the alleged assailants in custody.
"I can confirm that my client was released from custody on Friday. He will report to probation and mediation services and has promised to lead a regular life," said Pavel Kras, the attorney for the young defendant.
The youth was in custody out of concern for the fact that he might continue to commit violence because he is unable to control himself when drunk and is irrationally aggressive. The High Court originally extended his initial custody beyond the six-month limit that generally applies to juveniles.
The Regional Court, however, has come to the conclusion that supervision by a probation officer and a written promise from the youth not to commit crimes and to avoid more court involvement is enough. The case itself will be heard by the Regional Court in February.
On the day of the attack, two Romani youths were hanging out at the intersection of Bratří Čapků and Nádražní Streets in Duchcov. When a married couple walked by them, the Romani youths said: "The white gadje are here".
The husband of the couple (age 38), stopped, turned around, and started arguing with the two juveniles even though his wife was tugging at his hand to get him to leave. According to the prosecution, one 16-year-old Romani boy ran into a nearby bunch of bushes, brought out a stick that was 1.8 meters long and weighed 1.7 kg, and struck the man twice in the back with it.
The man began to plead with him to stop, but other Romani people joined the fight. They punched the man in his head and belly, pushed him to the ground and kicked him all over his body.
"He suffered contusions to his knee, his right elbow, his right temple and his occipital area. The injuries required medical treatment but did not require him to stop work," the prosecutor has written.
The man's wife ended up in a worse situation, as she was attacked by several Romani women. The prosecution alleges that one assailant pushed her to the ground, punching her at least eight times in the head and on the nape of her neck.
The victimized woman got back up only to be pushed to the ground by the other women once more. They kicked and stomped her in the back, the head and the nape of her neck, pulling her hair and punching her in the face.
The 16-year-old initiator of the conflict then joined the women. The prosecutor alleges that he ran along the woman's back while she was prone on the ground.
Five people will stand trial for the assault. They are charged with grievous bodily harm and rioting; some are charged only with attempted grievous bodily harm.
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