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Police make arrests in Bedřiška arson

Ostrava, 21.4.2010 19:19, (ROMEA)

Police arrested several people today in connection with the recent arson attack on the home of a Romani family in the Bedřiška settlement of Ostrava. Settlement residents claim neighbors from the settlement were arrested. "They locked someone up, how many people I don’t know,” the victim’s son-in-law told the Czech Press Agency today. Police are refusing to comment on the case for the time being. Police spokesperson Soňa Bradáčová would only say the investigation is ongoing.

"Right now police officers are performing other tasks related to the investigation. Detectives are constantly, repeatedly analyzing and checking all of the information they have discovered and received. Officers have not yet initiated criminal proceedings against anyone," Bradáčová said, adding that police would not comment on today’s information until they were ready to charge someone: "We are not authorized to comment on whether or not we suspect someone.”

Other residents of the settlement followed the police intervention today. "Several police cars came and took three people away in handcuffs. Then they searched the house. They were here quite a long time,” one witness said, adding that those arrested all live in the house across the street from the victims. "They had some disputes. They used to yell at each other, but none of us thought they would ever do such a thing,” the witness said.

However, another colony resident spoke of police taking away five people in handcuffs, allegedly a man, a woman, her brother and the couple’s two teenage sons. “It was not a Romani family. The man lived in the victim’s house at one time,” activist Kumar Vishwanathan, who is following the case, told the Czech Press Agency.

Dušan Podraný, whose home was attacked, also left Bedřiška this morning accompanied by police. "They brought me, my wife and our daughter to the station at around 06:30," Podraný said, adding that detectives had asked him about his neighbors. "They wanted to know everything, whether we had any disputes,” he said. The whole family returned home after 13:00.

An arsonist or arsonists attacked the home in the early morning hours of Sunday 14 March. A Molotov cocktail containing a highly flammable liquid crashed through the window of a room in which the 13-year-old daughter of the family was sleeping. The bottle did not shatter and the chemicals did not catch fire. Part of the carpet caught fire from the wick, but the girl, who was awoken by the breaking glass, managed to put the fire out. Police are investigating the attack as attempted murder.

Last April arsonists attacked the home of a Romani family in Vítkov. An investigation revealed that three Molotov cocktails were used in the attack. Three people were injured during the subsequent blaze. The most serious injuries were suffered by a little girl, Natálka, who was not yet two years old. She suffered extensive second and third degree burns over 80 % of her body.

Police have arrested suspects in the Vítkov case and the trial of the four right-wing extremists from Bruntál and Opava charged with the crime will start at the Regional Court in Ostrava on 11 May. The main hearing will take place under extraordinary security measures. The men are charged with racially motivated attempted murder against multiple individuals, one of them a child. They face up to 15 years in prison or could receive exceptional sentences or life in prison.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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