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Judgment in case involving Professor of University of Warsaw beaten up in tram for speaking German

The Regional Court for Warszawa-Wola sentenced to 10 months in prison an offender guilty of beating the Professor of the University of Warsaw in a tram for having a conversation in German.  In the court’s opinion, the offender’s behaviour was not an offence motivated by hatred based on national differences.

The Court also ordered the offender to pay a penalty assessment to the victim. As a courtesy to the HFHR, Mister Arkadiusz Matusiak of Bird & Bird Szepietowski i Wspólnicy Sp. K. represented, pro bono, Prof. Kochanowski, acting as an auxiliary prosecutor.

In September 2016, Professor Jerzy Kochanowski was travelling in a tram while talking German to his German guest. For this reason, he was attacked by one of the passengers and having been hit suffered a head injury.

The Court found the perpetrator guilty of minor bodily harm inflicted on Professor Kochanowski and also stated that the beating was an act of hooliganism. The Court stressed that the perpetrator committed the offence in public for no reason, thus disregarding the legal order. The judgment is not yet final.

Attack was not hate crime
In the Court’s opinion, there were no grounds to assume that an incident in a tram was motivated by national or ethnic differences, thus being a hate crime. According to the Court, upon hitting Professor Kochanowski the offender realised that he was not a German national.

In the course of proceedings, the Professor’s attorney noted the need to examine discriminatory circumstances of the case. The fact that Prof. Kochanowski was a Pole did not exclude the possibility of an offence being motivated by national or ethnic differences. The crucial aspect of the case is to determine motives of the offender.

A decision on an appeal against the judgment will be taken after reading the written grounds of the judgment.

The case has been conducted as part of HFHR’s “Article 32” anti-discrimination programme.

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