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Czech Supreme Court reinstates sentencing of Roma ex-police officer

Brno, 3.11.2010 12:05, (ROMEA)

Roma ex-police officer Martin Barkóci must return to prison to serve out a sentence of two years and nine months for allegedly covering up a crime. The Czech Supreme Court in Brno has rejected his appeal and has also rejected a complaint filed on his behalf by former Czech Justice Minister Daniela Kovářová regarding illegalities in his sentencing by the High Court in Prague. Kovářová exercised her right to suspend Barkóci's sentence in January of this year, the daily Právo reports.

"The Supreme Court has rejected both the appeal and the complaint. The original verdict now applies and the convicted party must begin serving his sentence once more. No other corrective measures are admissible," Supreme Court spokesperson Petr Knötig told the daily.

The Regional Court in Plzeň originally sentenced Barkóci to four years in prison for allegedly covering up a racially motivated crime. The High Court in Prague reduced his sentence by one year on appeal and removed all references to racial motivation from the verdict, Právo reports.

The case concerns a December 2007 incident in the town of Ostrov in the Karlovy Vary region. The prosecution has alleged that two Roma men, Milan Pačan and Julius Horváth, attacked a 35-year-old non-Roma man, Mr Březina, striking him several times with a shovel handle on the chest and face while shouting racist insults.

Barkóci, who was an officer called to the scene, is alleged to have said to the victim: "They should have killed you here. Be careful what you say." The prosecution alleged that the police investigation of the incident was delayed for months because Barkóci intimidated those involved and tried to influence the victim during interrogation.

Barkóci has denied the charges from the beginning. "This entire case is based on falsehoods. It is not true that I tried to blackmail Mr Březina on the scene. I had no reason to do that, I had never met him before that day. It is also not true that Březina was struck 65 times with a shovel handle - testimony by experts during the trial confirmed those charges were false," Barkóci said in an interview for news server Romea.cz.

On the night in question, Barkóci left the scene having determined that neither a misdemeanor nor a felony had taken place. When we asked him what happened next, he responded as follows:

"Březina changed his testimony five months later. The incident occurred in December and they took me into custody on 27 May. In the interim he had given his version of the events on multiple occasions. Four police officers responded to the initial incident, two detectives visited him in hospital the next day, a police officer from Ostrov nad Ohří visited him after that, and in March he testified to two other officers. He told all of those officers that his injuries were due to a fall. Five months later, it was his sister who reported a different version of events to the police, saying it did not seem to her that he had just fallen."

Pačan was sentenced to three years and Horváth to two and a half on appeal for attempted bodily harm and rioting. They are alleged to have caused Březina serious injury.

Barkóci was sent behind bars last October for abusing the powers of a public official and for blackmail. After the verdict was handed down, people in Karlovy Vary and Ostrov, where he is from, signed petitions in his defense.

ČTK, František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, fk, Právo, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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