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Vítkov arson appeal hearing scheduled for 17 and 18 March

Ostrava, 6.3.2011 1:48, (ROMEA)

In mid-March the High Court in Olomouc will hear appeals in the case of an arson attack committed against a Rome home in the town of Vítkov during which an infant was seriously burned. Hearings are set for 17-18 March. All four defendants have appealed the Regional Court verdict, which handed down extraordinary sentences to the four main actors in the attack.

David Vaculík, Ivo Müller and Jaromír Lukeš were given 22-year prison sentences, while Václav Cojocaru was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Three people were seriously injured by the blaze. Natálie, who was not quite two years old at the time, was harmed most severely. In addition to suffering burns over 80 % of her body, the child has lost three fingers and will suffer from other repercussions for the rest of her life.

"The hearing is planned for two days because it is a rather extensive case and there is more than one appeal. A two-day hearing means the appeals will not run the risk of being suspended for lack of time," said Petr Angyalossy, spokesperson for the High Court in Olomouc. The court received the extensive case file on the Vítkov arson from the Regional Court in Ostrava several weeks ago. The judge in charge will have to study several thousand pages of transcripts before the hearing.

The Regional Court found the four extremists guilty of jointly committing attempted murder and property damage. The men, who are aged between 22 and 26, have been sentenced to maximum-security prisons and must pay compensation and damages of more than CZK 17 million. Attorneys for Müller, Cojocaru and Lukeš want the charges reduced to reckless endangerment or grievous bodily harm and property damage. Vaculík's attorney asked the Regional Court to find his client innocent. The state prosecutor, who originally requested the extraordinary sentencing, has not appealed as she considers the original verdict to be fair.

The prosecutor charged the four youths with attacking a home occupied by a nine-member Roma family during the night of 19 April 2009. Three assailants each threw a Molotov cocktail through the windows while Lukeš waited in a getaway car. The prosecutor argued that the crime was connected to efforts to publicize extremist groups and the 120th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. Experts on extremism came to the conclusion that all four defendants were active North Moravian neo-Nazis who had succumbed to neo-Nazi ideology and endorsed racism. Evidence of this was the paraphernalia discovered by police during searches of the defendants' homes, as well as the work of court experts.

The court gave Vaculík, Müller and Lukeš longer sentences primarily because they had planned to commit the crime together, allegedly in lieu of traveling together to a neo-Nazi demonstration taking place in Bohemia on the night in question. That trip seemed too costly to them, so they came up with another program for the evening. Moreover, all three had previously been convicted of violent crimes or or promoting Nazism. Cojocaru's sentence was shorter by two years because this was his first offense, he had no part in organizing the attack, and he joined the others at the last moment.

The High Court in Olomouc will hear another arson case next week, that of the attack on a Roma home in the Bedřiška settlement of Ostrava last March. The prosecution charges the family's neighbors - a mother and son- with throwing a Molotov cocktail into the home. The Ostrava Regional Court handed down suspended sentences to the assailants. No one was injured by the attack as the fire was put out in time before the bottle could explode.

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



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