Slovakia: Romani victims of police harassment testify
A Slovak court has just completed a two-day hearing into the case of police officers who harassed Romani boys in 2009. Four of the children and several of their parents have testified to date.
News server Korzár.sk reports that 10 residents of Košice have sued the police in the case from 2009. On Wednesday and Thursday at the Košice II District Court, 10 active and former police officers faced charges of abusing their powers as public officials.
The case concerns harassment that took place at the Košice-Jih police station in March 2009. An investigation was begun after a DVD recording was published that showed police officers forcing six boys, who were suspected of having robbed a pensioner, to beat one another, kiss one another, and strip. (The video footage is available at http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/zahranicni/v-kauze-policejni-sikany-v-kosicich-vypovedeli-poskozeni-romove).
Evidence and testimony by the victims and their parents continued this week. On Wednesday two boys testified and did their best, within the realm of possibility, to recall those fateful moments.
Since they were only able to superficially describe what happened, and since their testimonies contradicted one another, the court also played the audio recording of their initial interrogation by detectives about the incident. Two more boys testified on Thursday.
"They first forced us to kneel, and then we walked into the hole. There we had to beat each other, kiss each other, and slap each other. When they ordered us to strip, they spit at us and cursed us as stinking degeši [unclean people] and Gypsies. Then they got the dogs to bite two of us. The officers were laughing at us and filming us with their mobile telephones," Ondrej H. testified.
The court also deposed some of the boys' parents, who had not been present during the harassment but who repeated what they had learned from their sons about what had happened at the police station. What was curious was that while five of the 10 defendants were present in court on Wednesday, on Thursday not one of them was present.
The defendants agreed the hearing could be held in their absence and that they would be represented by their attorneys. The next hearings will be in mid-March, followed by two in April, where more victims and witnesses are to be deposed.
According to the prosecution, the police officers brought the six Romani boys between 10 and 16 years of age to the Košice-Jih District Department of the Police Corps on 21 March 2009. They were suspected of having mugged a pensioner.
The officers reportedly threw the boys to the ground in front of unmuzzled police dogs that then allegedly bit three of them. The young Roma were struck several times and the police officers reportedly forced them to beat one another and then to kiss each other.
The police made video recordings of everything and mocked the boys' Romani origins during the proceedings. According to the prosecutor, the harassment then continued in the basement of the building, where the officers sent the youths and ordered them to strip within 10 seconds.
One police officer reportedly hung one of the boys from a railing, beat him, and forced him to say the name of his mother. Another officer reportedly put a gun to the head of another Romani boy and asked if he wanted to be shot.
That same defendant reportedly ordered the Romani detainees to lick his boot, then used a shovel to strike another youth. Four of the police officers are also being charged with extortion.
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