Vítkov arson verdict: 22 years for three defendants, 20 years for the fourth
Extraordinary sentences were handed down by the Regional Court in Ostrava today to the four extremists responsible for last year's arson attack on a Roma home in Vítkov. David Vaculík, Ivo Müller and Jaromír Lukeš have been sentenced to 22-year prison sentences, Václav Cojocaru to 20 years. The court found them guilty of complicity in attempted murder and property damage. They will all serve their sentences in a maximum-security prison and will have to pay the victims millions of crowns in compensation. The fire seriously injured three of the family members, including the infant Natálie, not quite two years old at the time, who was injured the most seriously with second and third-degree burns over 80 % of her body. The justification for the verdict is now being read out in court and broadcast live on television.
Today's verdict does not mean the case is over, however. Both the defendants and the state prosecutor may appeal. Attorneys for defendants Cojocaru, Lukeš, and Müller wanted milder punishments for the crimes of either reckless endangerment or grievous bodily harm and property damage. The attorney for Vaculík wanted acquittal.
Three of those convicted (Cojocaru, Lukeš, and Müller) cooperated to a certain extent with both the police and the court. They confessed their participation in the crime, which according to the file was allegedly committed to celebrate the 120th birthday of Adolf Hitler. However, they all rejected the idea that the attack had intentionally targeted a house in which people were living, claiming they believed it was just a warehouse of stolen goods. The fourth convict, David Vaculík, refused to testify. For his appearance in court today, Vaculík wore a Thor Steiner shirt, while Jaromír Lukeš wore a black t-shirt reading "Ragnarok", which is the name of a White Power band.
The four young men attacked the home of a nine-member Roma family on 19 April 2009. Three of them each threw a Molotov cocktail through the windows while a fourth, Lukeš, waited in the getaway car. They then fled the scene. Police arrested them in August after following their movements for approximately three months. A total of 12 people were originally arrested in connection with the case, but only these four were charged.
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