Minister slams judge in Kuřim abuse case

Klára Mauerová, mother of Ondřej and Jakub, photo: CTK

Few cases have been more shocking or sickening than the Kuřim child abuse case which went to trial last week. Since it began new headlines and explicit details have followed daily, describing how Ondřej and Jakub Mauer were subjected to psychological terror and physical abuse by a number of adults, including their own mother. The sensitive nature of the case has led some, including government Minister Cyril Svoboda to criticise the presiding judge in the case for choosing to leave proceedings open.

Klára Mauerová,  mother of Ondřej and Jakub,  photo: CTK
“Kauza Kuřim” - the Kuřim case - will without a doubt go down as one of the worst child abuse cases in Czech history: the story of two little boys allegedly abused so severely by their mother and others, with suspected links to a religious cult, it will take years of psychological counselling to recover. After a year of investigation, the case got under way last week, with the new details aired by the media: how the boys were caged, forced to stand in their own urine, or were cut or burned by cigarettes. Orders and abuse allegedly came from the boys’ mother and from others in the Mauer family circle.

The details aren’t easy to bear – one reason why even the state prosecutor asked for the trial to be behind closed doors. The view is that proceedings allowing in the media would further victimise the Mauer boys, something echoed by Minister Cyril Svoboda at the weekend. In an Op-Ed piece in Lidové noviny he lashed out at Judge Pavel Goth, accusing him of broadening his own name-recognition at the expense of the victims and of turning the trial into a “reality show”. Minister Cyril Svoboda:

Cyril Svoboda
“In my view, the case should not be open, on all the front pages of all the papers, on TV, and on the radio and the children are suffering. This is not a question of justice because everything could be handled differently. The president of the court – the judge – is taking responsibility for the future life and the moral development of the boys. They have suffered a lot, which is why I am against the whole story being on the front pages everyday. [I can’t help] but have in mind the fact they were most likely tortured and that their future development is at risk. They need to have a better future.”

But others disagree open doors in this case are a bad thing: Zuzana Baudyšová heads the Our Child Foundation targeting child abuse:

“The Czech Republic has never seen such a brutal and complex case, atypical in one thing: the role played by the public. A neighbour was the one who accidentally discovered Ondřej was being held under the stairs and if it hadn’t been for him those boys would still be mistreated now. Some are concerned that they could suffer from what they see in the papers or media but they have already endured such brutal treatment that this is inconsequential by comparison: both are now in proper care and child-care workers are restricting their access to the media. On the whole, I am convinced the public needs to know and the problem of child abuse needs to be transparent. People need to be made aware just how serious the problem is and what they should do when they suspect child abuse in similar situations.”

Meanwhile, the judge in the Kuřim case, Pavel Goth, has not commented Saturday’s criticism; there is a possibility that the court, however, will issue a statement.