Pensioner jailed on terror charge over fake “jihadist” attacks

Jaromír Balda, photo: ČTK/Kateřina Šulová

A pensioner has been convicted of terrorism after causing rail crashes intended to resemble jihadist attacks. A supporter of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, he said his aim was to spark resistance and ensure the “horror” of Muslim migrants never reached the Czech Republic.

Jaromír Balda,  photo: ČTK/Kateřina Šulová
A phone recording played at the Regional Court in Prague captured Jaromír Balda saying that he would “go after migrants”, whom he compared to rats.

“It’s us or them”, he said on the line to a local representative of the anti-migrant Freedom and Direct Democracy, a party to which he has made financial contributions.

Months earlier, in summer 2017, Mr. Balda had caused two train crashes in East Bohemia after felling trees by the tracks. Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries.

In both cases the pensioner, who is now 71, left leaflets at the scene purporting to be from Islamic terrorists and bearing the words Allahu Akbar (God is great, in Arabic).

These were intended to spark resistance to Muslim migrants, whom he referred to in court as a “horror”.

On Monday morning judges found Mr. Balda guilty of terrorism and sentenced him to four years in jail and outpatient psychiatric care.

He stood to receive between five and 15 years, but the sentence was reduced in view of the pensioner’s age and diminished sanity.

Former Czech Military Intelligence chief Andor Šándor says the fault does not lie with Mr. Balda alone.

“It seems to be that this is a case of the personal tragedy of a pensioner who was confused both by politicians and the media in this country.

“The fewer migrants we have, particularly from Muslim countries, the more aggressive we are against them.

“We have nearly zero of these people coming to our country but a particular part of the nation is full of hatred towards them.

“He committed a crime, there’s no doubt about that. He threatened trains on their way.

Andor Šándor,  photo: Adam Kebrt / Czech Radio
“But I wouldn’t call him a terrorist.”

Terrorism convictions are extremely rare in the Czech Republic. One man was jailed on terror charges for sending threatening emails to a politician, while another is behind bars for attempting to join Islamic State in Syria.

Mr. Šándor says the Czech cases to date may not tally with common understandings of the term terrorism.

“This is not exactly something that could be compared with what has happened in the UK, in Manchester, or what happened in France or in Germany.

“This is something different.”

Do you think then that Czechs have little reason to fear terrorism?

“We’re definitely not the most threatened country by Islamist terrorism.

“But on the other hand we can see that we have one or two cases involving our own citizens, who have nothing to do with Muslims and have never been to Muslim countries and who are not Muslims themselves.”