Suspected arsonist caught on tape praising ‘dudes’ who shot Hungarian Roma

Jaromír Lukeš, photo: CTK

New evidence emerged on Monday at the trial of four neo-Nazis accused of racially-motivated attempted murder after throwing petrol bombs through the windows of the home of a Roma family last year. A two-year-old girl was horrifically burned in the attack, which has received unprecedented attention here in the Czech Republic.

Jaromír Lukeš, photo: CTK
A scratchy police surveillance recording of suspected arsonist Jaromír Lukeš, recorded several weeks after the attack on the Roma family in Vítkov, North Moravia, last year. In the recording - played to Ostrava Regional Court on Monday – the two discuss how well the attack had gone and how the police would never track the group down.

A voice – allegedly belonging to Lukeš – then expresses envy at a similar attack in Hungary, where a 27-year-old Roma man and his six-year-old son were shot dead as they fled their burning home: “In Hungary they chucked their petrol bombs in, waited for them to run out, and then shot them. Total dudes they are.”

Experts are hesitant to draw any direct link between the attacks in the Czech Republic and Hungary, although from the police wiretaps it appears Czech neo-Nazis could at least have been partly inspired by the spate of race killings in Hungary in recent years.

Robert Kushen is the Executive Director of the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest. On the phone from New York, he told me advocacy groups were still waiting for courts in Central Europe to send a clear signal that racially motivated murder cannot be tolerated.

The house in Vítkov after the attack, photo:
“The trial in the Czech Republic is encouraging, but we have to see what the final verdict is. We’re hoping there will be a severe penalty assessed to serve as a deterrent. In Hungary for a long time there was no effective action taken against some very serious violent incidents resulting since 2008 in nine deaths. We understand there will hopefully be an indictment handed down some time in the fall, but thus far we haven’t seen it.”

After hearing the recordings Jaromír Lukeš told the judge he had deliberately lied about the attack because he suspected his friend of being a police informer and wanted to catch him out. That argument may not stand up in court, but his lawyer says the wiretaps were illegal and is lobbying for them to be rejected as evidence.