Czech president surprised by long terms for neo-Nazis convicted over
petrol-bomb attack on Romany home|
Four Czech neo-Nazis on Wednesday received prison terms of 22 and 20 years
for attempted murder after a shocking petrol bomb attack on a Romany
family’s home last year. The unusual length of the sentences has provoked
some debate in the Czech Republic; the country’s president has expressed
surprise that the punishment is so severe, while others have welcomed the
Handing down the verdict in an Ostrava court on Wednesday, judge Miloslav
Studnička said the defendants had set out to kill in what was a
premeditated attack, and compared their actions to what the Nazis did on
Kristallnacht in 1938.
The four young men petrol-bombed the Romany family’s home on the night
of April 18 last year, intending to honour the anniversary of the birth of
Hitler, two days later. The house was gutted and the family’s youngest
daughter was so badly burned doctors said it was a miracle she survived.
All four neo-Nazis were given what are known under Czech law as
extraordinary sentences. Three of them received terms of 22 years behind
bars, while the fourth got a 20-year term. They were also fined a total of
CZK 17 million or nearly USD 1 million.
Soon after the rulings were read out a debate began as to whether such
long sentences were appropriate – a debate greatly stoked by the
participation of the Czech president, Václav Klaus.
Mr Klaus said the sentences had seemed to him “unexpectedly high”. He
said he wondered if that was really the best way to prevent similar things
happening again in the future.
The Czech prime minister, by contrast, was satisfied with the outcome of
the closely watched trial. Petr Nečas said he regarded the punishment as
completely appropriate, and the sentence “the minimum”.
Mr Nečas’s advisor Roman Joch went some way further, saying such crimes
ought to carry the death penalty.
Such widely differing views were reflected on Czech internet forums, with
some hailing the tough jail terms and others saying they were too severe.
Miroslav Mareš of Masaryk University in Brno is one of the Czech
Republic’s leading experts on far-right extremism. He gave his reaction
to the verdict.
“It is something uncommon in the previous practice of Czech justice. On
the other hand, it is according to Czech law, which has the possibility to
give such harsh sentences to perpetrators of racial crimes or crimes
The political scientist said the outcome of the trial could deter some and
galvanise others on the far-right in the Czech Republic.
“For part of the neo-Nazi scene it is a threat for the future. On the
other hand, we can read on some neo-Nazi discussions on the internet that
for some it’s only a challenge for a harder and more conspiratorial fight
against their racial enemies.”
In the meantime, the issue of whether jail terms of 22 and 20 years are
adequate is not likely to disappear. All four of those convicted on
Wednesday have appealed.