Slovakia: Victims of police raid on Romani settlement on trial for perjury
The District Court in Košice, Slovakia has recently been hearing the case of 23-year-old Leonard H., one of a group of six inhabitants of the Romani settlement called Budulovská in the municipality of Moldava nad Bodvou whom prosecutors have charged with perjury. His case is associated with the investigation of a police intervention there in June 2013.
After a police operation in the settlement that was itself the culmination of a long-term project, police patrols were attacked by local residents. A couple of days after the patrols were attacked, several dozen officers from the criminal police, the riot police and traffic units went to the settlement and, according to local inhabitants, brutally assaulted more than 30 residents.
Because the locals were convinced the police intervention was so disproportionately harsh as to constitute brutality, they filed five criminal reports altogether about the incident. At the instruction of the Prosecutor-General, a police investigation began in relation to the entire case and an inspection audit was also launched by the Slovak Interior Ministry.
A separate internal audit was done by the ministry in the matter as well. Officers were investigated on suspicion of using disproportionate force, trespassing, and committing wanton property destruction of the persons affected.
In November 2015 and then during 2016 the detective in charge of the investigation brought its various phases to a close. The investigation never proved police wrongdoing, nor did the Interior Ministry's inspection audit.
According to a spokesperson for the Prosecutor-General, what was proven beyond any doubt by the detailed, extensive, precise investigation was that the inhabitants of the Romani settlement had never been tortured at the local district police station. Additionally, the Prosecutor-General's spokesperson said the operation to apprehend suspects in the settlement concerned had been planned and realized in accordance with the law and regulations.
The defense in the perjury case has asked for the opportunity to present new evidence and new eyewitness testimony about this sequence of events. According to court, however, the case of the police raid is already closed.
Allegations of perjury
After almost five years of investigations and the delays associated with them, the upshot of this entire scandal is that only the Romani people who reported the police to other police have been charged, and they currently face the prospect of being convicted for perjury. A total of six charges were brought against Romani settlement residents who will have to be dealt with by the Slovak courts over the course of the next year.
According to news server korzar.sme.sk, defendants Irena M. (50), Leonard H. (23), Július H. (31), Július H. (31), Róbert R. (39) and Roland D. allegedly committed perjury in 2014 at a police station in Košice when they filed their own accusations and criminal reports against the police officers whom they witnessed raiding their community. After being instructed as to the law, and while in the position of eyewitnesses, these local Romani inhabitants said that both specific officers and others unknown to them were those who had used unwarranted violence against them during the police operation in June 2013, causing them injuries that were not spelled out in detail.
In five of these perjury cases the District Court in Košice issued findings without holding hearings and handed down conditional sentences. The defendants appealed and the court is now holding hearings.
The case of Leonard H.
On Thursday, 15 November, Leonard H., who is accused of having perjured himself to police by identifying one of the harshly-intervening officers as the individual Milan J., found himself sitting on the defendant's bench. During Leonard H.'s interrogation by officer Milan J. he alleged that unwarranted violence had been used and that injuries had been caused to him, which he did not detail.
The court order Leonard H. was appealing had sentenced him to 12 months in prison, suspended for one year. The defendant and his representative were in the courtroom just briefly.
During the opening presentation it came to light that in Leonard H.'s case the legally-required five-day period to prepare for the hearing had not been honored. Because the defendant insisted on having time to prepare, the judge had to postpone the hearing, setting a new hearing for mid-January 2019.
This is the second time a court hearing associated with the scandal of these alleged perjuries has been frustrated in such a way. The first instance was when the preparation period was not honored for defendant Robert R., whose hearing was cut short at the end of September for that reason and rescheduled for the week of November 19th.
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