A Czech bus driver who was sent to prison after refusing to fulfill part of a sentence for defacing politicians’ election posters by adding bugs’ antennae to politician’s heads has been freed temporarily while one of the country’s highest court looks into the controversial case.
The temporarily quashed the verdict against Olomouc bus driver Roman Smetana on Thursday, releasing him from his ongoing prison sentence while it looks into the circumstances surrounding the original verdict from his regional court.
Supreme Court spokesman Petr Knötig stressed that the temporary lifting of the criminal penalty should not be taken as any indication of how the court will eventually rule.
Smetana’s case became a cause célèbre in the country after he was sentenced to 100 days in prison for refusing to fulfill part of a community service order handed down as part of the original sentence for defacing political election posters in mid-2010.
The jail sentence was imposed by the wife of former top Civic Democratic (ODS) politician and former minister of the interior, Ivan Langer, who originally launched the complaint with police against Smetana and whose political material was the main target for his pen.
Condemnations of the sentence included one from the Czech human rights watchdog, the branch of the Helsinki Commission for Human Rights, which pointed out that the penalty was out of proportion with the original offence with Czech also signing nationwide petitions in Smetana’s support.
Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil (ODS) promised to hand over the case to the Supreme Court at the start of May, saying that the court should go to the heart of the matter and rule whether drawing on a political poster was a criminal act or just a minor offence.