Czechs who insulted Castros to be tried

November 5, 2009

Wilfredo Cancio Isla, Miami Herald

Two Czech tourists arrested in March after they shouted insulting remarks about Fidel and Raúl Castro during a scuffle at Havana's international airport will be tried next week, diplomatic sources confirmed Wednesday.

Zdenek Tovara, 25, and Jaroslav Jirik, 32, were charged with public disorder, damages and resisting arrest after a scuffle that involved employees at the air terminal and required the intervention of police forces on March 22 of this year.

``The two Czech citizens have been under arrest since March and, according to information from their lawyers, the trial will be held Nov. 11,' reported from Havana a diplomatic source who requested anonymity.

The case came to light in late October, when a relative of Tovara's told a version of the events to the Czech radio station Frekvence 1.

According to the relative's testimony broadcast by Czech radio, the arrest was related to the homosexual behavior of both individuals before their departure from Cuba, where they spent a two-week vacation.

However, the accounts from Havana point to other reasons.

Apparently, the men arrived at the airport inebriated and continued to drink until an argument began between the two.

The information gathered by El Nuevo Herald from two eyewitnesses -- a Cuban employee and a Czech tourist -- coincides in that the men engaged in an argument that mobilized the employees of several nearby shops who tried to calm them down.

``But everything got worse, because one of the Czechs is a martial-arts expert and he began to strike blows and destroy property. Then, all the personnel from the shops fell on top of him and the police had to take action,' said the airport employee, who asked to remain nameless for fear of reprisals.

The police intervention provoked the Czechs into shouting obscene words against Fidel Castro, President Raúl Castro and Cuba's communist leadership, wrote Svetlana Vitka, a Czech tourist who witnessed the event, in a e-mail to El Nuevo Herald.

``The two men offered resistance, but ended up beaten up and unconscious,' Vitka wrote.

The prosecution filed the charges on June 23. If found guilty, the defendants could receive up to five years' imprisonment.

It is not clear if the criminal charges will also include contempt, because of the insults and obscene gestures directed at the Cuban leaders.

The diplomatic source added that both defendants stay in regular contact with officials of the Czech Embassy in Havana but declined to offer more details about the incident.

The Czech tabloid Aha! recently reported that Tovara asked for aid to the successful Cuban couturier Osmany Laffita, who lives in Prague. Laffita told the tabloid that he had taken up the issue with the Cuban Embassy in Prague.

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