Czech ultra-right arsonists face extraordinary sentencing over attack on residential hotel in Aš
Two right-wing extremists who began to testify in court yesterday before the Regional Court in Plzeň about a 2012 arson attack on a residential hotel in Aš could face extraordinary sentencing if convicted. Tomáš Kopecký (24) and Michal Poláček (34), according to police files, were members of the neo-Nazi racist organization Blood & Honour Division Bohemia and its militant daughter organization Combat 18 when they threw Molotov cocktails at a building occupied by families with children, most of them Romani, in February 2012.
A third man, who actively urged both assailants through the internet to commit the crime, is also on trial for promoting and supporting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms and for other crimes committed at different locations around the country. Another six members of the group from all over the country have also been indicted for various other crimes.
The indictment charges all of the defendants with acting as an "organized group". "Unlike the 2009 attack in Vítkov, police in this case have managed to also uncover the serious background to the case, i.e., the activities of an entire network of people who contributed to the work of the radical organization Blood & Honour Division Bohemia," Markus Pape, who is representing the victims in the case, told news server Romea.cz.
"The victims are seeking compensation for the damages of pain and suffering, harm to their social status and non-pecuniary damages from three persons. The indictment, however, charges only two men with perpetrating the arson attack. We believe a third man influenced their actions by inciting them to commit the attack and that he too should contribute to the compensation," Pape said.
For four of his clients Pape is seeking CZK 100 000 each from Jan Balík, who has been called the leader of the Czech branch of the organization, Kopecký and Poláček, while for a fifth client, a little girl who was not yet two years old at the time of the attack, he is seeking CZK 1 million. An insurance company is also seeking compensation exceeding a million crowns from a defendant for another building in Prague that was completely burned down.
According to the indictment, the attack was committed on 26 February just after 2 AM. The prosecutor says Kopecký and Poláček agreed to commit the crime in advance.
At a gas station in Aš, Kopecký filled plastic bottles with 2.4 liters of gasoline and then found glass bottles to use for the Molotov cocktails on the way to the residential hotel. In the cellar of his parents' residence, he used rags for the wicks and put two Molotov cocktails together.
According to the indictment, the two men poured gasoline around the area surrounding the residential hotel's only working door and then threw the Molotov cocktails at the building. Kopecký threw his bottle through the window of a unit occupied by a hearing-disabled man, while Poláček threw his into another unit with two occupants.
The residents managed to put out the fire that resulted. According to the indictment, no one sustained physical injuries, but the attorney-in-fact for the victims says that at the very least it can be proven that the little girl was harmed by the incident.
At the time of the attack there were 10 adults and eight children in the residential hotel. According to state prosecutor Jakub Kubias, another defendant was involved who aided in the production of objects promoting Nazism, distributed recordings of Nazi bands, called for training so violence could be committed against Romani people, incited the radical organization Blood & Honour Division Bohemia to take action, recruited new members for it, spray-painted the facade of an Orthodox church in Mariánské Lázně and other buildings, as well as setting a building on fire in Prague where he believed "left-wingers" and others gathered.
This defendant faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The whole indictment involves 11 points and was read aloud by the state attorney yesterday for roughly one hour.
Some defendants covered their faces the entire time the charges were being read. Their testimonies will take the rest of this week, with Kopecký and Poláček scheduled to testify both today and tomorrow.
Previously, both men told the police they were drunk when they perpetrated the arson. The state attorney claims that witnesses will testify they were not.
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