Czech court handling case of racists who beat up Romani youth in Havířov

The Regional Court in Ostrava has once again reviewed the case of a group of ultra-right extremists who are charged with having assaulted several people in Havířov in 2008. One year ago, the court in Ostrava handed down three convictions without possibility of parole and three suspended sentences for racially motivated grievous bodily harm. Two men were also acquitted. The High Court in Olomouc, however, overturned that verdict and returned it to the lower court.

This latest court session was not public because one of the defendants was not yet 18 at the time the crime was committed. The court reviewed the documented evidence and postponed the next hearing until 2 March.

On the night of 8 November 2008, a larger group of violent racists set out onto the streets of Havířov “after agreeing that they intended to assault Romani passers-by”, as the charges read. In the neighborhood of Šumbark, after briefly chasing their victim, J.H., who was 16 years old at the time, they pushed him to the ground, beat him, and brutally kicked, particularly in the head, causing him serious, life-threatening injury. After this assault, the gang drove to another neighborhood, Prostřední Suchá, also predominantly inhabited by Romani people, and attempted to assault Romani passers-by there.

Some witnesses said there were as many as 12 people in the group and that they traveled in three cars. Police brought eight people before the court and said they had driven to Šumbark in two cars. The court acquitted two of the eight last year.

Of the three defendants who received suspended sentences last year, two drove the cars. It could not be proven that they had beaten up the Romani victims. Sentences without the possibility of parole were handed down against Karel Takáč, Michal Šebela, and a youth whose name cannot be published because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

Police already had files on some of the defendants prior to these events as aggressive football hooligans, fans of the football clubs Baník Ostrava and Havířov. The youngest defendant had the longest criminal record, having been convicted of felonies on three previous occasions, including brutally assaulting a police officer when leaving a football match.

Police have kept quiet about the case during the entire investigation. The public learned of it mainly thanks to the chair of Europe Roma CZ, Ladislav Baláž, who immediately visited the family of the main victim after the attack, found them a lawyer, and represented the victim himself as an attorney-in-fact. Human rights activist Markus Pape then mapped the case and was the first to inform the public of it in detail.

In mid-July 2010, the website of the Anti-Fascist Action organization, Antifa.cz, published detailed information about the overall activities on the neo-Nazi scene of some of the defendants in this case. Antifa says some of the defendants belong to the group of hooligans that calls itself “Thugs Havířov” and that one of them is an active member of the neo-Nazi militant group National Resistance (Národní odpor – NO), which was banned by the Czech Supreme Court years ago.

Violent raids by neo-Nazis against Romani people have been frequent in Havířov in the past, mainly in Šumbark. “Since news server Romea.cz and the other media have started reporting about the trial, it’s been calm there,” said Ladislav Baláž, who monitors the situation.


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