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Czech Republic: Romani man suspected of Nový Bor assault turns himself in to clear his name

Nový Bor, 17.2.2012 18:07, (ROMEA)
Antonín Sinu was assisted by his attorney, Klára Samková, with turning himself in to police. (PHOTO:  Repro Nova TV)

A man who is suspected of being one of the five perpetrators of last August's attack on customers at a bar in Nový Bor turned himself in to police yesterday. Klára Samková, the attorney defending the suspected assailants, told Mediafax of her client's actions. Some Czech media outlets, such as the main Czech-language wire service (Czech Press Agency), news server Aktuálně.cz, and others are running headlines claiming police apprehended the man.

"I accompanied Antonín Sinu to the local police department. Members of his family who wanted to say good-bye to him came with us. Now we are going to the court in Liberec, which will decide whether to remand him into custody," Samková said yesterday afternoon.

Samková said that Sinu had fled abroad after the incident out of fear for his own life. Police have been prosecuting him and another suspect in absentia. Two other suspects are in custody and a third was released on his own recognizance. Detectives have charged all five with attempted murder. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison.

Police are investigating the assault as attempted murder committed for "contemptible reasons". Three of the defendants are charged with multiple counts of attempted murder. Racial motivation has not been added to the charges yet.

The TV Nova station succeeded in filming an interview with Antonín Sinu about the incident prior to his arrest. "I was walking by and when I heard what was going on there, I took a look inside. I actually helped the people who had been injured there," Sinu told TV Nova, saying he has returned to the Czech Republic to clear his name. "The police let me go, they took me into custody at first, then they immediately released me. I got my stuff together and left the country. No one would have ever found me where I was living, but I have returned because I want to set the record straight," he said.

Sinu says he fled the country because the police threatened to murder him. "I fled because police officers here in Nový Bor and the Česká Lípa district threatened me. Specifically, they said a stray bullet might get me," Sinu said.

"We hope this step on the part of the Roma will be understood as cooperative and that it could be a first, small step toward establishing new relations between the Romani community and the Czech majority society," Samková said of Sinu's voluntarily turning himself in. Sinu has been abroad for half a year.

"One of the wanted persons against whom an arrest warrant was issued, including a European arrest warrant, has been arrested on the territory of the Czech Republic," State Prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová said yesterday. The Czech Press Agency reported earlier today that the court has remanded him into custody.

The incident in question took place on 7 August 2011 in the "Pivní pomoc" bar and was allegedly preceded by a dispute between a waitress and two Romani youths who wanted to play the slot machines. The woman is said to have asked to see their identification. The youths allegedly started vulgarly insulting her. Other customers reportedly stood up for her and showed the young men out of the bar, but they returned with reinforcements, attacking the other customers and injuring three of them.

The young Romani men's version of the incident, however, is different. They say the waitress did not ask to see their identification until after they had won money on the slot machines. Another customer then allegedly struck one of them.

While the prosecution has not yet filed its case, the state prosecutor did decide last December to prosecute four of the assailants for attempted murder. The charges originally considered had been grievous bodily harm and rioting. The defendants could face extraordinary sentencing.

The incident in Nový Bor raised tensions between the majority society and Romani people in North Bohemia. Residents responded to it by holding a peaceful demonstration condemning violence. However, the assault attracted the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS), which organized its own march in Nový Bor. After the assault, riot police also started supervising security in the streets there.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Radka Steklá, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, ras, Mediafax, Czech Press Agency, TV Nova, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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