Czech who caused the death of one Romani man and stabbed two others gets five years
Stanislav Sýkora will be going to prison for five years for his part in a brawl that resulted in the death of a Romani man during the opening of the spa season in Teplice, Czech Republic last year. Sýkora also stabbed two other Romani men during the incident.
The verdict was announced by the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem. The state prosecutor indicted Sýkora for racially motivated grievous bodily harm resulting in death, but the court reduced the charges to those of felony assault.
The panel of judges did not find the perpetrator to have been racially motivated. Sýkora has been ordered to pay the deceased's brother compensation in the amount of CZK 80 000.
The incident occurred on 24 May 2013 during the celebration of the start of the spa season in Teplice. Sýkora was called for help by a friend who was guarding a stand and who told him that some Romani men had stolen something from him and also assaulted him.
During the trial, however, it was proven that no Romani people ever stole anything from the stand. Sýkora and his friend caught up with the group of Romani men several hundred meters away from the stand on that evening.
According to the court, Sýkora instigated the brawl by cursing at the Romani men. Sýkora and his friend were on one side of the fight and six Romani men were on the other.
During the conflict, the 31-year-old Sýkora stabbed a 49-year-old Romani man with a knife, who then died as a result of the injuries. The second stab was fatal, as it pierced the left chamber of the man's heart.
The victim died en route to hospital. Sýkora also used the knife to attack two other Romani men, one of whom he stabbed in the chest, the other in the arm and ear.
The injuries suffered by the other victims were not serious. "I would like to apologize to the bereaved, I am sorry," Sýkora said prior to the verdict being read out.
"There is no doubt that the conflict was instigated by the defendant," presiding Judge Roman Felzmann said in his substantiation of the verdict. The court did not find that the incident had been racially motivated.
According to eyewitness testimonies and the indictment, curses such as "black swine" were shouted during the conflict. "The court has found that insults were not made by just one side, but by both," Felzmann explained.
According to the original indictment, Sýkora faced up to 16 years in prison for racially motivated grievous bodily harm resulting in death. The state prosecutor is now decided whether to appeal.
"I will wait to receive the verdict in writing and then I will decide whether to appeal just the sentencing or the verdict itself," said state prosecutor Zdeňka Chromá. According to Sýkora's defense attorney, Jan Svoboda, the court was correct to reduce the charges.
"The court evaluated the situation very carefully by interrogating all the witnesses, they did not just satisfy themselves with reading the testimony from the preliminary proceedings into the record. That contributed, to a significant degree, to this decision, which we consider just," Svoboda explained.
David Oplatek, the legal representative of the deceased's family members and the other victims, has called the judges' decision shocking. "This verdict is shocking, not just surprising. The court struck down the racist motivation for the assault even though Sýkora's only reason for assaulting the Romani men was that his friend called him to say he was having a problem with 'gypsies' - he took no interest in what actually happened. The fact that the court decided this was felony assault is also striking. In my opinion this should be considered either murder or grievous bodily harm resulting in death, as the indictment was originally filed," Oplatek told news server Romea.cz.
Oplatek believes the verdict also means the Romani men who were attacked will evidently not avoid being charged for their involvement in the incident. "Felony assault is an offense involving any intentional act that causes another person to fear they are about to suffer physical harm, so anyone participating in a fight is considered a perpetrator," Oplatek said.
The relatives of the deceased also believe the punishment is too low. "He attacked a lot of people, not just one person, and he's supposed to get five years? If he were Romani he'd be in prison for life," the sister of the deceased said after the verdict was announced.
Sýkora has been convicted of crimes three times before this. His previous offenses include driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to pay alimony, and violent activity.
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