Czech prisoner amnesty releases racist assailants and extremists

The amnesty announced yesterday by Czech President Václav Klaus will release several infamous Czech extremists from serving their conditional sentences. Amnesties have also been granted to perpetrators of brutal racist attacks, such as the one committed against Romani people in Nýrsko and the attack committed by a former DSSS (Workers‘ Social Justice Party) candidate against a Moroccan citizen in Rožmitál. According to preliminary estimates by the Czech Justice Ministry, the number of prisoners covered by the amnesty totals 6 876. That number might still change.

The Czech Justice Minister has pointed out that the release does not concern anyone who has been remanded into custody for prosecution. Previously he stated that the terms of the amnesty covered prisoners who had been given sentences of one year or less and that it should therefore most frequently apply to perpetrators of felony obstruction of official decisions and perpetrators of petty property crimes, such as shoplifting.

Amnesty for brutal racist assailants

The amnesty does, however, also apply to the racist assailants Boublík and Miškovič of Nýrsko. Last year they were given 18-month prison sentences, suspended for three years. Václav Boublík (age 20) and Jiří Miškovič (age 23) first attacked a small group of children in a pedestrian area of Nýrsko for no reason last year. The children fled; some ran to their parents‘ homes to hide. The assailants started breaking into one building and tried to strike a girl standing in a ground-floor window with a baseball bat. A male resident then opened his front door and, fearing other attackers were on the way, did his best to get the assailants away from the building.

One of the perpetrators pushed the male resident to the ground and started strangling him with a sweatshirt. When the other members of his family saw what was happening, they ran out and did their best to help the victim. According to eyewitness testimonies, both of the perpetrators shouted crude racist insults and threats at their Romani victims during the assault.

The assailants finally fled the scene and got into an accident while driving out of town. The driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a concrete barrier wall. He and his passenger then fled the scene of the accident, according to police spokesperson Dana Ladmanová. Police soon apprehended them. The younger man confessed that he had been driving. A breath test showed he had been drinking, and police officers also determined that his driver’s license had been suspended by a previous verdict. Miškovič had also been sentenced by the courts previously for rioting.

The impact of this traumatic experience on the psychological state of the victims was described in the verdict brought against the perpetrators. One victim is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which has significantly impacted his life. According to a medical expert, it is not clear whether he will ever fully recover.

Miroslav Vojáček of Rožmitál, a former independent candidate on the list of the DSSS, can also be glad that the amnesty was announced. At the start of last year, Vojáček attacked a Moroccan citizen in the Central Bohemian Region. He attacked his victim for no reason from behind, causing him injuries that took two weeks to treat.

Police officers arrested Vojáček immediately after the assault. It turned out that he had run on the DSSS list during the 2010 parliamentary elections and that he was famous in the neighborhood for his ultra-right sympathies. Vojáček was sentenced to 12 months in prison, with a conditional postponement of three years.

According to Klára Kalibová, the chair of the In Iustitia association and a lawyer who has long worked on cases of hate violence, while the president has the right to grant amnesties, such a right should be used with discretion. „Amnesty is evidently not a tool that should be used to address the overcrowding of the Czech prisons. If I were to try to evaluate this amnesty from the position of hate crime victims, I believe they might feel this is greatly unjust. After they have been attacked, their health has been damaged, their dignity has been harmed and possibly their property has been damaged as well, after they have undergone an entire criminal proceedings, at the end of which a verdict finally took effect, now they will be confronted with the fact that the person who harmed them will not be punished after all. The victims could take some satisfaction in the fact that since the court has already found those convicted guilty, all that has been forgiven here is their sentencing, or to be precise, what remains of it. From the point of view of the victims‘ interests, in particular the subjective interest to see punishment delivered for harm caused, it would be more appropriate for the amnesty to apply only to types of felonies that are not premeditated, or to felonies that are not related to human dignity and peaceful coexistence (e.g., economic and property crimes),“ Kalibová told news server

Amnesty for leaders of the extremist DSSS

The partial amnesty also applies to members of the former leadership of the Workers‘ Party (Dělnická strana – DS), who were given conditional sentences for speeches they made at a 1 May demonstration in Brno in 2009. The Workers‘ Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti – DSSS) reported the news on its website. Leading representatives of the DS joined the DSSS after the Supreme Administrative Court dissolved the DS in February 2010.

Party chair Tomáš Vandas is no longer on probation thanks to the amnesty. During his 1 May 2009 speech in Brno he talked about a „destructive tsunami of immigrants“. He received a four-month sentence, suspended for 20 months, as a result.

Martin Zbela is no longer on probation for exalting the neo-Nazi National Resistance (Národní odpor); his prison sentence had been for seven months, suspended for 24 months. Jiří Štěpánek is no longer on probation for mentioning „hordes of foreigners from the steppes spreading disease“ and the cure of „National Socialism“; his prison sentence had been for eight months, suspended for 24 months. Petr Kotáb, who likes taking rhetorical aim at Romani people, can thank Klaus for amnesty from his four-month sentence, suspended for 20 months. By all accounts the probation periods should also end for DSSS promoters Michal Glas (20 months) and Michaela Dupová (24 months).

Amnesty for convicted con artist Lukáš Kohout?

Of all those potentially affected by the amnesty, the fate of Lukáš Kohout is yet to be determined. Kohout became particularly infamous for his games with false identities, passing himself off as an assistant to Czech MP (and head of the UN General Assembly) Jan Kavan in order to fly to exotic destinations. Kouhout was also the organizer of anti-Romani demonstrations in the town of Varnsdorf in 2011.

Several years ago, Kohout was convicted of fraud and theft by the District Court for Prague 1. He began serving his sentence in the prison at Stráž pod Ralskem, but was paroled after serving only part of it. According to a court in Česká Lípa, however, Kohout has not attended meetings with the probation and mediation services, has not attempted to pay for the damage he caused, and has not even performed his community service work. The court therefore agreed with the state prosecutor’s conclusion that Kohout is neither leading a proper life nor meeting the terms of his release, and that he therefore should return to prison to complete his sentence. Nevertheless, Kohout’s case is complicated, and it is not clear for the time being whether he will succeed in getting out of both his parole and his prison time.

The amnesty does not apply to Roman Smetana, a former bus driver who became notorious for drawing antennae on the images of politicians in election campaign billboards. He must go to trial this month and faces up to three years in prison for contempt of court (last October he repeatedly did not show up to serve his prison time).

President Klaus announced the partial amnesty yesterday at the end of his New Year’s Day speech. It was the first amnesty granted by the outgoing head of state during his two terms as president.

According to Deputy Justice Minister Daniel Volák, this is definitely not one of the larger amnesties in the country’s history. „I‘d say it’s a medium-sized one,“ he said.

Date: 02.01.2013