Czechs jailed for Roma hate attack

Czech court punishes four men for brutal April 2009 firebomb attack on a Roma family's home.

    Ostrava Regional Court sentenced four men to stiff prison terms for arson attack against Roma family [AFP]

    A Czech court has imposed the Republic's longest-ever jail term for a racially motivated crime - a firebomb attack on a Roma family's home that left a two-year-old child with burns over most of her body.

    Judges in the northeast city of Ostrava, 350km east of Prague, sentenced four men to 20 to 22 years in a high-security prison for attempted murder and damaging property. They also must pay almost $1 million in damages to the family and in hospital costs.

    They threw three firebombs into the home of Pavel Kudrik and Anna Sivakova, injuring them and leaving their daughter Natalka with burns on 77 per cent of her body, in what the court called an attack motivated by extremist, neo-Nazi views.

    Pictures of the toddler's burnt body appeared for months in Czech newspapers after the April 2009 attack.

    The attack was allegedly timed to coincide with the 120th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday.

    "It was a brutal attack, an unusual attack in recent decades," Miloslav Studnicka, the judge for the regional court of Ostrava, said on Wednesday.

    The trial, which began in May, proved that their intention was to kill the Roma who lived in the house "because of their race," Judge Studnicka ruled.

    State prosecutor Brigita Bilikova has said that three of the men threw Molotov cocktails into the house "to minimize the chance that inhabitants would survive.''

    David Vaculik, Jaromir Lukes, Ivo Mueller and Vaclav Cojocaru had pleaded not guilty, saying they didn't know the house in the northeastern town of Vitkov was inhabited.

    "I will never be able to forgive them," Anna Sivakova, the victim's mother, told CT24, a Czech public television channel on Wednesday.

    The four convicted men immediately appealed the verdict.

    Roma rights

    Rights groups have listed the Czech Republic as one of the European Union countries where Roma, who number an estimated 300,000 in the country of 10.5 million, face difficulty in finding jobs and getting an education because of discrimination.

    Following the arson attack, which sparked unrest among the Czech Republic's largely
    impoverished Roma community, the government stepped up its efforts to fight right wing extremism.

    In February, the country's Supreme Administrative Court banned an extremist far-right Workers Party because of its links to neo-Nazis, in the first such verdict since the fall of communism in 1989.

    Roma communities are often targeted by racist groups in central and eastern Europe.

    In Hungary, several Roma were killed in recent years in apparently racially motivated attacks, and the far-right Jobbik won 47 seats in the 386-seat parliament in April.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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