“Petr Srkal of Louny has been brought to trial there on charges of using wooden shovel handles to pound on the door of a residential hotel occupied by Romani people and threaten them last September. Srkal explained his actions by saying he had been the victim of a mugging and had visited the residential hotel because the people living there had stolen his bicycle and mobile phone.
The court originally fined Srkal and sentenced him to community service. That punishment, however, seemed too light to the state prosecutor and Srkal is insisting on his innocence, so a full hearing has now been initiated.
“Someone was whooping it up out there, shouting ‘Gypsies to the gas chambers!’, ‘Gypsies get to work!’ I don’t know who it was,” a witness told the court, adding that her daughter had been so rattled by the night-time scene that she had not wanted to go to school the next day.
Srkal emphasized that he had been responding to a theft. He was outraged that the lawsuit describes the theft as a mere allegation. “The mobile phone was on me, I was the victim of a mugging. I went to the residential hotel for one reason only, to get my stuff back,” he told the court. His girlfriend also confirmed to the court that Srkal had possession of the mobile phone shortly before the incident and used it to call her.
Judge Blanka Šišová has postponed the next hearing in the case until October. She wants to interrogate other witnesses as well, such as the man who fought with the drunken Srkal when he visited the residential hotel.
Police say Srkal repeatedly broke into the residential hotel, occupied mostly by Romani people, during the night and asked around for his bicycle and mobile phone, blaming the residents for its theft. He first broke the glass in the entrance doors and then, after brawling with a resident, was found lying in the street by police, who had to call an ambulance.
When Srkal visited the residential hotel a second time that night, he was armed with wooden shovel handles, a firefighter’s helmet, and knee guards. He used the shovel handles to bang on the locked doors and demand his bicycle and mobile phone. Srkal also reported the theft of the unlocked bicycle from the vestibule of a restaurant to police, who charged him with rioting and detained him for several hours.
Srkal, who chairs the Severočeši.cz (“NorthBohemians.cz”) party in Louny, then threatened to hold an anti-Romani demonstration. He never realized those intentions.
“The option of getting carried away on a wave of anti-Romani sentiment is immeasurably tempting,” Mayor Kerner of Louny said at the time, adding that such an incident would have categorized Louny as among the country’s troubled localities, a reputation it does not deserve, in his view. “The level of crime in our town is several orders of magnitude lower than it is in some towns in North Bohemia, and the same goes for what are the rather peaceful mutual relations between ethnic groups here – or at least, that’s what it used to be like,” the mayor said.”