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August 20, 2022



Czech Supreme Court upholds sentence for terrorist who supports ultranationalist party

3.1.2020 8:14
Jaromír Balda, accused of committing two terrorist attacks on trains, in court on 7 January 2019.  (PHOTO:  Czech Television)
Jaromír Balda, accused of committing two terrorist attacks on trains, in court on 7 January 2019. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

Last month the Czech Supreme Court (Nejvyšší soud - NS) rejected an appeal from Jaromír Balda, a supporter of Tomio Okamura's "Freedom and Direct Democracy" party (SPD) who was sentenced to four years in prison for committing terrorist attacks on railway lines and for threatening terrorism, cutting down trees so they would obstruct train tracks in an attempt to spark fear of the religion of Islam and of a wave of Muslim migrants coming to the country. The decision, which was available to read on the notice board at the court, said that terrorism poses a threat to democracy, to the free exercise of human rights, and to the development of the economy and society.

According to the defense, Balda should just have been convicted of reckless endangerment, not of terrorism, but the NS did not agree with that argument. "In accordance with the prosecution and the lower court verdicts, the Supreme Court has ruled that the definition of the especially grave crime of a terrorist attack was met here," NS spokesperson Petr Tomíček said.

The court recalled that Balda had subjected passengers and train crews to the danger of either death or grievous bodily harm had the trains derailed. "By committing such attacks at a blind spot on the track, he wanted to intimidate the population in a serious way, including by creating the impression (through fliers thrown around at the crime scene) that each incident had been committed by Islamist terrorist groups," Tomíček said.

Balda, who at the time was an SPD sympathizer, set his sights on the first tree to cut down at the beginning of June 2017 on the railway line between Bakov nad Jizerou and Mladá Boleslav. He cut the second tree down less than two months later between the stations of Bělá pod Bezdězem and Bezděz.

The trains hit the tree trunks while traveling at 70 kilometers per hour and it was just sheer luck that nobody was harmed during either attack. Balda left fliers reading "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is Great!" in Arabic) near the felled trees.

He subsequently sent similar printed materials in which he did his best to create the impression that they had been written by followers of Islam (mainly by writing them in bad Czech) through the mail to various addresses and posted them in public spaces. His defense claim that the fliers featured a "patently naive text" did not help his appeal.

The NS cited passages from the materials in which Balda wrote about using Semtex, laser-sighted weapons, and killing all unbelievers. The court did, however, find certain deficiencies in the justification of the verdict being appealed.

According to Tomíček those deficiencies were not so serious as to require the decision to be overturned. Balda could now still theoretically file a constitutional complaint against the verdict, but he would have to argue that it violates his fundamental rights.

Balda confessed to committing the crimes. Among other things, he told the court that he had been haunted by gruesome dreams about migrants.

He claimed to have been acting under the influence of medications, news reports on television, and the statements of some politicians. The senior citizen originally faced between five and 15 years in prison.

The Central Bohemian Regional Court, in accordance with the wishes of the prosecutor, handed down a sentence that was less than the usual length because Balda's sanity had been compromised during the commission of both crimes. According to a forensic psychiatrist, Balda suffers from an organic personality disorder that influences his behavior by, among other things, deteriorating his judgment.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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