The District Court for Prague 7 has started hearing the indictment against the former vice-chairman of the Communist Party of the Czech Republic Josef Skála (front) and other accused in the case of public denial of the Katyn massacre, February 1, 2023, Prague.
Prague – Today, the District Court for Prague 7 sentenced the former vice-chairman of the KSČM, Josef Skála, to an eight-month suspended sentence with a five-year probationary period for denying the Katyn massacre. He imposed the same suspended sentences on the other two defendants – Vladimír Kapal and Juraj Václavík. The prosecution alleges that in a discussion posted on a YouTube channel, the men disputed that the Katyn massacre was committed by the Soviets. All three men denied the charges, denying war crimes. Today's verdict is not final.
Judge Tomáš Hübner emphasized that he considers what happened in Katyn to be a proven historical fact, therefore the evidence in court focused on what the defendants said on the record. But according to the judge, it was not a discussion. “This was not a discussion, it was a clear propaganda exhibition outside the law, which from beginning to end aimed at only one thing: to convince the listener, who will be unfortunate enough to turn on the session, that not much happened in Katyn , and if it happened, the Germans are to blame for everything, because the Soviet Union did not commit any war crimes during the Second World War or any other,” stated Hübner.
“Nobody anywhere in the world would allow this if it was about the crimes of the Germans, Auschwitz, the Holocaust,” said Hübner, adding that, according to him, there is still a misconception that communist and Nazi crimes are not on the same level. “It's not true, the law knows absolutely no such difference,” he said.
The debate related to the indictment took place in the summer of 2020. It was moderated by the defendant Kapal from Svobodné radio, and in addition to Skála, Václavík – an amateur historian and author of a book which, according to the annotation, “reveals the deeds, life and rule of Josif Vissarionovich Stalin, a man piled high with dirt”. Along with the men, Svobodná radio also faces charges as a legal entity, the court today imposed a penalty of publishing the verdict for 90 days.
According to recognized historical facts, Polish prisoners of war were murdered in Katyn in 1940 by the Soviet NKVD secret police. However, according to the indictment, Kapal said in the program, for example, that “everything is a little different than what they are currently trying to tell us”. Skála, in turn, said that the Polish government-in-exile cooperated from the beginning in creating the Nazi legend about the NKVD. He described the exhumation of thousands of bodies from mass graves as alleged. It was also said that mass executions in the field in mass graves was a purely German method. According to the public prosecutor, Kapal subsequently uploaded the recording of the interview to the Internet.
The court played the nearly two-hour recording of the debate today. According to Skála, it clearly follows from him that he did not deny war crimes. He only allegedly encouraged discussion of the topics. He added that he can substantiate every sentence from the discussion with “serious third-party sources”. Other defendants also denied that they would deny genocide or war crimes.
In their closing arguments, the defendants' defense attorneys pointed out in particular that the men did not deny or dispute the event, according to them, they were only disputing who was responsible for the massacre responsibility. But the judge said they denied the perpetrator, who was found innocent. “Furthermore, there was clear questioning, not only the evidence, but also the number of victims,” said Hübner. According to the prosecutor, the defendants' guilt was proven. She drew attention to the fact that freedom of speech can be limited by law if the interest is the protection of the rights of others, in this case the victims of the Katyn massacre. About thirty of them got into the courtroom, others were waiting for the outcome of the main trial in the corridor.