Czech court holds trial of man who threatened Romani children with gunfire at summer camp
Last week the District Court in Děčín opened the trial of the shooting and vulgar verbal assault committed against children participating in the Čhavorenge children's choir ensemble, directed by Ida Kelarová, in the Děčín area in August 2016. The trial was scheduled after the defendant, Martin Kout, objected to a court order finding him guilty of rioting.
The hearing was held without any other Czech media outlet covering it besides reporters from news server Romea.cz. The children's camp where the shooting incident happened was held last year at the beginning of August in Jiřetín pod Jedlovou, and a local resident, Martin Kout, whose single-family home is adjacent to the grounds, committed two verbal assaults on the children and the management over the course of three days.
According to eyewitness testimony, Kout used racist, vulgar language to abuse the adults and children from the camp and intimidated them by firing a gun into the air. Testifying in court, he rejected that version of events and said he had just been using a gas-fired pistol while training his dog.
After the second incident, in which Kout used racist abuse against a co-organizer of the summer camp, Deziderius Dužda, and attempted to pick a fight with him, those managing the camp decided to call the Czech Police. Despite being repeatedly urged to do so, the state police refused to come to the scene to investigate.
A motion was sent to the General Inspectorate of the Security Services (GIBS) regarding the lax approach taken by police but was not assessed by that body as a justified complaint. The court issued a preliminary order in the case on the basis of the police file finding Mr Kout guily of rioting, but the aggressor then asked for a trial.
"In this matter, an indictment was filed against M.K. on 24 March 2017 on suspicion of committing the offense of rioting according to Section 358, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code. On 1 June 2017 a court order was issued in this matter, against which the defendant, M.K., has objected. For that reason, a trial hearing has been scheduled in this matter," Lenka Lasovská, press spokesperson for the court, told news server Romea.cz.
During the main hearing, four people total testified, including one of the victims, Mr Dužda, and the defendant, Mr Kout. The witnesses summoned were the owner of the recreation area and a friend of Kout's.
The first questions of the judge to Mr Dužda concerned the first incident, which transpired near Mr Kout's home as the children were returning in the evening from playing a game. "The children said he fired a gun and shouted 'fucking gypsies, shitty gypsies, stop making so much noise'," Mr Dužda testified.
The rest of the trial addressed the connection between yet another round of gunfire and the verbal assaults committed by the defendant during a second incident, which played itself out directly on the grounds of the camp. Mr Kout and his friend did their best to convince the court that the second firing of the gun was not a continuation of the first incident.
Mr Kout's friend, speaking as an eyewitness, confirmed the defendant's story about training his dog. "We needed to test how the dog reacted to the bang, meaning the gunshot. We tried it out, and then we chatted with his parents and wife. Then he went to his shed for a cable and we got in the car and drove away. When we got to the gate of the recreation facility, [Kout] told me to stop the car, that he was going to settle it with them, that he was sick of it," his friend testified.
The judge was interested in how much time passed between the gunfire and the incident at the recreation center. The defendant's friend answered that he believed approximately 30 seconds to one minute transpired between the two incidents.
Kout's friend also alleged that during that amount of time they spoke with the family and Kout went to the shed for the cable they had originally come there for. When the attorney for the defendant asked a question about whether all that really happened in one minute, the friend adjusted his estimate of the time to five minutes.
Of those testifying in court, Mr Kout was the only one to allege that more than 10 minutes passed between his firing the weapon and the incident on the grounds of the camp, and he even guessed that as many as 20 minutes might have passed between the two moments. He then promptly said that since the incident happened a year and three months ago, he no longer remembers how much time passed.
Mr Dužda told the court that Mr Kout was on the grounds verbally assaulting him within five minutes of his hearing the gunfire. When the judge asked whether the verbal attack was connected with the fact that Mr Dužda is a Rom, he answered that it certainly was, because otherwise Mr Kout would not have addressed him "you gypsy fuck" and "gypsy faggot".
The judge then asked who else was present during the verbal assault at the campground. "The cook, Mr Kadlec from the [Czech] Philharmonic, and a lady were there," Mr Dužda testified.
The court will interrogate those eyewitnesses during the continuation of the trial on 18 December. The attorney for Mr Kout asked that the eyewitnesses from Mr Kout's family be interrogated first - his father, mother and wife.
The judge rejected that request, saying he would first interrogate the direct eyewitnesses to the incident and then would decide who else will testify. Legal and social aid and counseling for the victims of the attacks is being arranged by the In IUSTITIA organization.
The NGO has dedicated itself to the case from the very beginning. "We consider this to be quite a major case because of the fact that children were endangered and because of the approach taken by police toward addressing it," In IUSTITIA director Klára Kalibová told news server Romea.cz.
The resolution of the entire case of the shooting at the children's camp is proceeding along two avenues of inquiry, the one the court is now hearing and another concerning the inaction and unwillingness of the police to intervene at the time of the incident. Ida Kelarová is demanding that the police officers apologize.
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