Online debater convicted in Czech Republic of death threats against Roma moderator
Martin Kubák, known online under the nickname Kraxna, was sentenced yesterday by the Prague 5 District Court to a four-month prison sentence, suspended for one year. Starting in August 2009 he sent dozens of threatening e-mails to Patrik Banga, an online discussion administrator for news server iDNES.cz. In addition to racist vulgarities, the e-mails include death threats against Banga and his son. Kubák started harassing Banga after his access to internet discussions was blocked because his vulgarity violated the news server's rules for discussion. The verdict is the first of its kind in the Czech Republic.
The court said Kubák committed the crime of violence against a group of persons and individual members of that group. "He threatened death and other serious harm in such a way that it gave rise to justified concern," Judge Vanda Činková explained the District Court verdict to news server iDNES.cz.
Kubák was given the suspended sentence in a brief procedure which did not involved testimony to the court. He did not appeal the verdict by the deadline, so the verdict has taken effect.
"I am glad a verdict was reached. People do not enjoy total anonymity even on the internet and must bear responsibility for their actions," Patrik Banga told news server Romea.cz. "However, I am rather sorry we did not have the opportunity to explain this to Kubák in person, like normal people."
Attorney František Valeš, who contacted Patrik Banga through the ROMEA association, is also preparing a civil suit over the threats for protection of personality. Valeš is satisfied with the criminal verdict, but news server iDNES.cz reports that he believes it is a mistake that Kubák has not been assigned a probation officer. Nevertheless, this is the first case in which a Czech court has convicted someone of intolerance and threats on an internet discussion board.
Pavla Kopecká, spokesperson for the Prague criminal investigation police, can recall only one similar case making it to criminal court. "In that case the perpetrator sought out and physically attacked the object of his vulgarities after making threats through the internet," she said. In Kubák's case, the court intervened in time.
"I could not allow Kubák to actually make an attempt to harm my son," Banga told news server Romea.cz. He turned to the police and Kubák subsequently confessed to his behavior. At the end of last November the Prague 5 state prosecutor decided to halt the proceedings, but Banga complained to the Office of the Municipal State Prosecutor, which re-opened the case.
The United States mentioned this case in its annual Human Rights Report. Its description of the issue can be found in the section on freedom of speech and the press.
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