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Prague tram driver says attack on sleeping Romani man was racially motivated

Prague, 2.2.2012 19:29, (ROMEA)
These men are suspected of having committed the attack in Prague's Kobylisy neighborhood. (PHOTO:  Police)

Last week two men with shaved heads attacked a fellow passenger on a tram in Prague's 8th district. The victim was seated and asleep. Both of the assailants, wearing hoods, beat him up. They then got off the tram and fled into the metro. The driver of the tram says the attack was racially motivated.

The men assaulted the 29-year-old passenger on Monday, 23 January, shortly after 21:00. Czech media have reported that the assault occurred as the tram was traveling between the Kobylisy and Okrouhlická stops, but the driver says that description is not accurate.

"The victim was sitting behind the driver's cabin on the second seat away from it, so I could not directly see the attack. What I am personally sorry for is that I even let the three of them onto the tram. The doors had already closed when they were pressing the button, but I opened the doors anyway. The media has reported they assaulted him as the tram was driving. It did not happen when the tram was driving, because if it had I would have been violating our internal regulations about addressing such assaults. I am not deaf. The attack took place at the Okrouhlická stop," the driver of tram no. 24, where the brutal assault took place, told news server Romea.cz.

By reviewing video footage, police have determined that the assailants first got onto the metro at the Letňany station together with another three men and one woman. They exited the metro at the Kobylisy station. There they split up and the two men, together with the woman, got onto tram no. 24. The driver claims the men did not attack the youth right after they got on, but rode two stops before assaulting him.

"I have read in the paper that they returned to the Kobylisy stop after the attack. My personal opinion is that they just wanted to attack someone, which is why I am so sorry I opened the doors for them, but I couldn't have predicted it," the driver told Romea.cz.

When asked whether the victim was Romani, the driver responded unequivocally. "Yes, it's clear he was. This was clearly a racial attack," the driver claimed with certainty. News server Romea.cz is not publishing the driver's name at his request.

Both of the shaven-headed men voluntarily visited police the day after a bulletin for them was issued through the media. The woman who allegedly was with them on the tram and saw the whole conflict also visited police.

The police spokesperson says that for the time being police have no information about the victim's ethnicity playing a role in the case. They have refused to make a statement about the motivation for the attack.

"The assailants may have committed a racially motivated felony with intent against the victim's health and life. In a criminal proceedings the victim will be entitled to compensation for any harm caused to his health, as well as non-material damages," lawyer Klára Kalibová told news server Romea.cz.

Both assailants, however, were released on their own recognizance and have not been informed of any charges against them. Police say this is because they are waiting to see how long the victim's medical treatment will take, as that will influence the legal categorization of the charges.

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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