Slovak appeals court tells first-instance court to revise its verdict on police abuse of Romani boys from Košice
The shameful scandal of the police abuse of Romani juveniles living at the Luník IX housing estate in the town of Košice has been dragging through the courts since March 2009. According to a report published by news server Romovia.sme.sk on 29 April, the Regional Appeals Court has now overturned the first-instance court verdict in the case of police officers charged with being accomplices to felony abuse of the powers of a public official and other crimes.
Marcela Gálová, spokesperson for the court, informed the media of the appeals ruling on 28 April. The entire case will now be returned to the first-instance court and tried again.
"For clarification of the findings of fact, more evidence is required," Gálová told the media. The Košice 2 District Court acquitted 10 officers, most of whom are no longer working for the force today, as well as another four who were charged with extortion in the widely-publicized case.
The prosecution appealed on the spot; the judges instructed the six victims seeking EUR 30 000 in compensation each for moral damages to file civil suits. The boys were arrested on 21 March 2009 on suspicion of having mugged an elderly woman and were taken to the police station by the officers, who began to extensively abuse them there.
The officers forced the boys to strip, to stand with their hands above their heads, to kiss each other and to slap each other; they beat them, subjected them to racist insults, and set service dogs on the boys, who bit several of them. Officers also held a weapon to one boy's head, threatened to kill him, and forced him to lick their boots, while they hung another from a railing by his arms.
Those committing the abuse filmed themselves doing so on their mobile telephones and then sent the recordings to each other and to several of their colleagues. A relative of one of the officers who discovered the recording downloaded an edited version to DVD and sent it to the Slovak daily SME, which then published it.
Most of the officers were identified immediately once the footage was published and some were fired. Even though the recordings unequivocally show how the abuse of the boys happened, the first-instance verdict acquitted the defendants on the basis of a decision by the panel of judges that the DVD recording of the humiliation could not be submitted as evidence because it had not been acquired lawfully.
The first-instance court also rejected the prosecution's motion that the motivation for the crime be considered racist. Representatives of the Center for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa pro občianske a ľudské práva) and several Romani representatives have regularly issued statements about the entire case, condemning not just the police brutality, but the fact that the Romani minors assaulted the senior citizen.
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