Former youth star of Czech politics Dominik Feri has been sentenced to three years of jail for two cases of rape and one attempted rape.
The court case has been closely watched and could mark a turning point in a country whose authorities are under criticism for failing to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence.
The sentence is not yet in legal force. Feri stated he is “disappointed”, claiming there are discrepancies in the whole case, and has appealed the ruling. State Prosecutor Petra Grivnova can also still appeal the ruling.
In her verdict, Judge Lenka Hajkova pointed out the sentence was low and that the only positive aspects speaking in favour of Feri is his prior clean criminal record and that he committed the deeds at a very young age. Feri was also ordered to pay financial compensation to the victims.
Feri, who was elected to parliament on the free market TOP 09 list at the age of 21, was the country’s youngest legislator and the first to be black. He faced between 2-10 years in prison. One victim was at the time a minor, just 17 years old, when Feri intoxicated and took advantage of her.
Journalists present in the courtroom also reported that Hajkova chastised Feri for his behaviour during the victims' testimonies.
“He [Feri] was laughing so loud it was audible in the courtroom. He has a right to defence, but not in such a rude manner and with contempt,” Hajkova was quoted as saying by Czech Radio.
“I am convinced that reasons for prosecution were confirmed,” Grivnova said in her statement ahead of the ruling and pointed out the mental duress, which the victims continue to struggle with.
Heroine magazine highlighted the description of the rapes as routine deeds.
All the victims “were young, prospective and on the threshold of adulthood. Rape caused a major trauma to all of them,” stated the representative of the victims, Adela Horejsi, adding that “the accused does not think of women as human beings,” and that his “actions have a consumerist and serial nature”.
“One of the worst things was a certain unattended routine which accompanied the rapes,” Horejsi was quoted as saying by Heroine.
Apolena Rychlikova, who, together with her colleague Jakub Zelenka, ran a series of investigations exposing Feri’s deeds, leading to the police charges, wrote that the first part of the “closely watched case” ends and that it can “change a little the way Czech society looks at similar cases”.
Five more cases of rape by Feri were reported.
One of Feri’s lawyers, Vaclav Kucera, whom Heroine reported as the TOP 09 nominee on the supervisory board of majority-state-owned energy utility CEZ, called on the court to focus on evidence and not the media atmosphere.
Heroine also reported that Feri continued to intimidate the victims throughout the trial.
“The accused is still trying to break into the fragile state of the women,“ Horejsi was quoted as saying, and “keeps them tense about what else could happen to them”.
Feri stepped down as an MP in May 2021 and left TOP 09 and its candidate list before the October 2021 general election.
Television station Nova caused an outcry by airing the names and birth dates of the victims despite court orders prohibiting the media from doing so.
Horejsi described the TV Nova's actions to Czech Radio as something "primitive" and "outrageous". The Country's Office for the Protection of Personal Information launched an investigation, while TV Nova claims it "respected" court instructions.
Reporters Marie Vesela and Vitek Kubant explained in a Czech Radio interview that the breach of court orders is "very problematic" not just because it transgressed the law and failed to protect the victims of the criminal behaviour, but also because "it sends a signal to potential victims, who would like to approach police with their bad experience, that there is no obstacle for TV Nova to air this."