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Racial violence case ruling sets precedent

Saying they hoped the decision would signify a turning point in how racial attacks are investigated by Slovak police, international observers and minority groups in Slovakia cautiously applauded an April 27 legal decision in which a white man from Banská Bystrica was prosecuted for a racially motivated crime. According to the press agency SITA, the case is believed to be the first time in Slovak history a judge specified that the "attack against the injured person was motivated by the fact that he is a Roma."
During the trial, the defence argued that it had not been unambiguously proven that the attack was driven by racial hatred. Prosecutors, however, used the defendant's regular submission of articles to a newsletter entitled White Pride as incriminating evidence against the attacker.

Saying they hoped the decision would signify a turning point in how racial attacks are investigated by Slovak police, international observers and minority groups in Slovakia cautiously applauded an April 27 legal decision in which a white man from Banská Bystrica was prosecuted for a racially motivated crime. According to the press agency SITA, the case is believed to be the first time in Slovak history a judge specified that the "attack against the injured person was motivated by the fact that he is a Roma."

During the trial, the defence argued that it had not been unambiguously proven that the attack was driven by racial hatred. Prosecutors, however, used the defendant's regular submission of articles to a newsletter entitled White Pride as incriminating evidence against the attacker.

Dagmar Kusá of the Slovak Helsinki Committee in Bratislava said that the decision offered hope that the nation's apparent apathy towards racism was on the decline. "The current Slovak legal system has shown a serious shortcoming in its lack of willingness to prosecute for racial crimes - this sets a precedent and we are happy that it finally took place," she said. "We hope that it will be a positive step in solving racial problems that face the nation today."

In previous suspected skinhead attacks, the distinction between 'physical attack' and 'racially motivated physical attack' had never been made. The Banská Bystrica case nearly ended the same way when the presiding judge used a dictionary entry in June 1999 to allege that the Roma are not a race, thereby ruling out the possibility that the attack had been racially motivated.

On June 11, 1996, three young white men spat at Ivan Mak, a Roma, and then verbally and physically attacked him. After Mak received treatment at a local hospital, one of the culprits again attacked Mak in the hospital. The defendant received a two-year suspended sentence after a three-year trial period.

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