Pub owner fined 200 dollars for barring Roma guest

Ivo Blahout, a pub owner in the West Bohemian town of Rokycany, was fined 8,000 crowns - that's around 200 dollars - on Tuesday for ordering his staff to refuse entry to Roma customers.

Mr Blahout rejects the charges of racial discrimination and says he was merely defending his business; Roma rights organisations meanwhile are up in arms at the modest fine. Alena Skodova has the story.

Mr Blahout says he issued the order in 1995, after a group of Roma guests smashed up his pub in a fight. He vowed never to let them enter his pub again. When Roma guests attempted to enter the building, waiters would inform them that all the tables were reserved. A few months later a group of Roma activists visited the pub to see for themselves. They too were turned away, and immediately filed a law suit against Mr Blahout.

Kumar Vishwanatan is an Indian community worker who works with the Roma in the city of Ostrava. But there have been many racially motivated crimes committed in the Czech Republic, involving Roma people who have been violently assaulted and even killed, and where the culprits have never been punished properly. One of those cases was the drowning of Helena Bihiarova, a Roma woman from Vrchlabi, who was forced into an icy river by two youths. Mr Blahout said after the trial that he would not pay the fine and was ready to take the case to the International Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. Mr Vishvanatan says the Czech Republic, currently striving to join the European Union, must prove that it respects its minorities.