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September 25, 2018
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Czech trial of shooting at Romani music camp hears testimony about shooter's verbal abuse as well

23.5.2018 16:37
Romani musician Ida Kelarová on 26 October 2017 in the corridor of the District Court in Děčín, which is addressing the case of an assault on Romani children involving shots fired in the air at a camp in Jiřetín pod Jedlovou in the summer of 2016. (PHOTO:  František Bikár,
Romani musician Ida Kelarová on 26 October 2017 in the corridor of the District Court in Děčín, which is addressing the case of an assault on Romani children involving shots fired in the air at a camp in Jiřetín pod Jedlovou in the summer of 2016. (PHOTO: František Bikár,

Court testimony by another eyewitness to the 2016 shooting incident at a summer camp continued yesterday at the District Court in Děčín. Martin Kout is accused of having fired a gun and racially abused those attending a children's camp in 2016.

Those attending the camp were Romani. Kout has pleaded innocent and faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

The incident happened in the summer of 2016 at the location of a summer camp visited by a Romani choir. Those attending the camp have previously testified that the owner of land adjacent to the camp facility repeatedly fired a weapon into the air and shouted racist abuse at the Romani choir members.

"The children were, understandably, excited, so they were noisy when they were running past the neighbor's house, but it only lasted about a minute. The gentleman had an outburst in which he began to shout: 'You black gypsies go to hell!' and similar slogans," choir director Ida Kelarová said in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

"After that he fired into the air," Kelarová said. According to her, Kout fired his weapon repeatedly.

The choir director also alleged that Kout behaved aggressively on the camp grounds. The shooting, according to Peter Bílý, who was also at the camp, horrified the children.

"The youngest ones ran into the kitchen looking for us and crying. They said somebody had fired a gun at them, some man," Bílý testified in court yesterday.

Bílý said he was also present during the incident in which, according to him, Kout came to the camp facility and got into an argument with one of the organizers. "He called him a 'fucking gypsy and a fag'," Bílý testified.

Kout claims to have fired his weapon into the air as part of training his dog. His family has lived in the home as their main residence for about eight years.

Before they moved in full time, the property served as the family's vacation cottage. Kout's neighbor, Přemysl Mastík, confirmed Kout's family members' testimony that noise can be heard from the camp facilities almost constantly.

Mastík testified that when the choir was at the camp in 2016 they were noisy too. "[The noise] was above the norm of what is tolerable, he testified.

"It was commented on again by the citizens of Jiřetín, who asked what was going on - the drums could be heard on the town square," testified Mastík, noting that the noise from the camp was constant with the exception of meal breaks. The hearing will continue in mid-June with a review of documentary evidence.

The court has also asked for information about whether any misdemeanor proceedings were dealt with in connection with the noise. The court originally convicted sentenced Kout without a hearing.

The defendant objected and the trial is now underway before the judge. Kelarová has complained that police were inactive in connection with the incident, as they never visited the scene after the shooting was reported and made light of it.

The Romani children involved have sent an open letter to the police and to Czech PM Andrej Babiš in which they remind him of the fact that the police have yet to apologize. Police mistakes in the case have been confirmed by the Public Defender of Rights, Anna Šabatová.

From the Public Defender's report on the police investigation in March 2017 it follows that the police made mistakes when they failed to visit the crime scene after being called and failed to verify whether those attending the camp might still be in danger somehow. The Public Defender of Rights called the police approach to the case dilatory.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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