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Czech Police charge two men for publishing racist content about mass killing last year, Pirate Party and ROMEA filed reports against them

1.2.2021 9:43
Racist commentaries were posted beneath a news item on mainstream news server Novinky.cz on 8 August 2020 about a tragic incident in  Bohumín, Czech Republic, where 11 people, three of them children, died as the result of arson committed on the 11th floor of an apartment building. (Collage:  Romea.cz)
Racist commentaries were posted beneath a news item on mainstream news server Novinky.cz on 8 August 2020 about a tragic incident in Bohumín, Czech Republic, where 11 people, three of them children, died as the result of arson committed on the 11th floor of an apartment building. (Collage: Romea.cz)

The Czech Police have charged two men with making racist remarks in association with last year's tragic arson in Bohumín. Czech MP Olga Richterová (Pirates) and the ROMEA organization had jointly filed a criminal report against them. 

Officers in Prague have charged a 43-year-old man there with posting racist comments online about the incident. After arson was committed inside an apartment building on 8 August 2020, 11 people died, including several children.

Eva Kropáčová, spokesperson for the police in Prague, said the accused man produced and then posted a comment that was of a hateful, racist character about the people living in the apartment that had been attacked. Detectives charged the man with defamation of an ethnic, national, racial or other group and with approving of a felony.

If convicted, the man from Prague could spend as long as three years in prson. A 41-year-old man from Ostrava has also been charged for authoring a racist article about the incident.

Even though the vice-mayor of Bohumín, Igor Bruzl (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) announced to the public that neither the deceased nor the perpetrator had been members of a minority community, the Ostrava-based author referred to the dead in his article as "cikáni". The piece was published on the right-wing extremist "Vlastenecké noviny" ("Patriotic News") portal with the headline "Eleven fewer cikáni. Some of it burned up and some of it jumped out of the window", describing the children who were victims of the attack as "a cikánská brood" and citizens of Romani origin as "an overpopulation of parasites".  

The author also used the phrase "barbecue of cikáni" to refer to the attack. The operator of the portal is an association headed by a Radek Velička.  

Crime reports

The analytical team of the Pirate Party, in collaboration with the ROMEA organization, mapped the most brutal, insidious comments posted online in the aftermath of the mass killing. Richterová and ROMEA then sent those articles and comments to police as part of their joint crime report against the unidentified perpetrators.

The Pirates also communicated with several relatives of the victims of the attack, who made no secret of their consternation over the comments. "For me, the idea that somebody is celebrating an arson attack just because Romani people might have been among the victims is absolutely crazed,"  Richterová said of the crime reports when they were filed last year. 

"People are all human beings first and foremost. Such attempts to create intolerance of any minority inscribe themselves into the way our society functions," the MP said. 

"If we want to judge others at all, then it shouldn't be according to their nationality, but according to their actions. Last year [2019] there was an analogous incident in the case of the shooting in a hospital in Ostrava, when an article was posted to a disinformation website alleging that tragedy had been the consequence of a war among Jewish people," she related.

"The Pirates filed a criminal report in that case and we will proceed uncompromisingly in all such cases," she said. Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization, explained why the organization filed the reports as follows: "To post racist commentaries to an online discussion when the speculation arises that the perpetrator of a crime might have been Romani, or that the victims might have been Romani, is absolutely unacceptable."

"Wishing that little children would burn to death is absolutely monstrous, and the relevant authorities must begin to take action... However, it is also necessary to recall what role some media outlets played in this case," the ROMEA director noted. 

"Those media published the untrue allegation that the arsonist was a Romani man without any verification, which is an enormous professional error and failure. Moreover, they did so at a moment when the nationality of the perpetrator or victims was not important to the case of the mass murder in Bohumín, because it had nothing to do with that crime," Ryšavý observed.   

In addition to the crime report filed about the "Patriotic News" article, the Pirates and ROMEA filed another for a piece published on a portal called Zvedavec.org ("Curious.org") with the headline "Blaze in Bohumín was set by cikáni - but the media are chastely silent", as well as another crime report against the then-unidentified author of the following online commentary:  "If that was a cikánská herd, their death is our good fortune. I hope the gentleman who set that fire has strong nerves." The person whose name was signed to the comment subsequently told the analytical team of the Pirates that it was authored by his underaged son, who used his father's computer to write it, allegedly in error. 

fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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antigypsyism, Bohumín, Police, Racism



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