The Czech police have repeated that the death of a Roma in police custody was not related to the actions of the officers who arrested him.
An autopsy expert ruled this week that the man died of “methamphetamine poisoning,” police said.
It comes after the death of 46-year-old Stanislav Tomáš in June sparked a backlash from the Romani community in the Czech Republic.
Many have drawn parallels to George Floyd’s death in the United States last year, which sparked global protests.
Glasgow-based human rights group Romano Lav has previously condemned the police narrative, even if Tomáš had been under the influence of drugs.
“[The report] does not legitimize police brutality and at least the potentially lethal use of force that the video is so clear [shows]”read a statement.
What do we know?
According to the Czech police, Stanislav Tomáš died of a drug overdose after being arrested in the northern city of Teplice on June 19.
Officers were alerted to two men who were allegedly assaulting each other and people’s cars, an initial police statement said.
“Upon arriving at the scene, the officers found a shirtless man with apparent injuries lying on the ground.”
Later, police say the man became aggressive, “scratching and biting” police officers as soon as they approached him. Video footage of the arrest was widely circulated on social media in the Czech Republic.
In the video, one of the three officers can be seen kneeling on the man’s chest and neck for about five minutes. Tomáš collapsed in an ambulance and later died despite resuscitation efforts.
The police claim that the officers did not use excessive force, despite the anger of the Roma activists.
The authorities have received the backing of the Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, and the Minister of the Interior, Jan Hamáček.
On Tuesday, Czech police in the Ústí nad Labem region released another statement reiterating that the officers were not responsible for Tomáš’s death.
“The Regional Police Directorate … has received the final autopsy report from the Masaryk Hospital Forensic Medicine Department on the case of a man who died shortly after being detained by the police in Teplice on June 19, 2021.” .
“The expert report concludes that there is no connection between the police intervention and the death of the man,” police said.
“Death was directly causally related to methamphetamine poisoning,” they added.
Police had previously said that the 46-year-old man died after a “foreign substance from the amphetamine family” affected his “coronary arteries.”
The country’s police inspection has previously stated that it does not believe that the police officers committed any crime in the arrest.
Tomáš’s family has dismissed the police reports and filed a criminal complaint blaming the three officers for his death.
Concerns for the Roma community
Amid widespread media attention, Czech and international organizations have also called for an investigation.
The Council of Europe said the images of the arrest were “alarming and raise numerous questions about the circumstances of this tragic incident.”
“The Council of Europe is calling for an urgent, thorough and independent investigation,” the body said in june. Amnesty International issued a similar appeal.
More than two hundred people also gathered in front of the Czech embassy in Bucharest to protest, displaying banners reading “Roma life matters.”
The Roma, the largest minority in Europe of around 10 to 12 million people, have long suffered from “prejudice and social exclusion,” according to the European Commission.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism