Czech election poster defacer faces new charges over prison evasion

Political-protesting former Olomouc bus driver charged by police for avoiding prison sentence

Roman Smetana has become a popular figure, with fans offering to pay his fines foto: © tn.czČeská pozice

Roman Smetana has become a popular figure, with fans offering to pay his fines

The Czech Republic’s highest profile political protestor, former bus driver Roman Smetana, who was released from prison last week, has come before police on new charges that could see him behind bars again.

Smetana, who was released from prison pending a Supreme Court review of his 100-day sentence for failing to fulfill the terms of a previous sentence for defacing election posters, was charged on Monday with evading his prison sentence.

The former bus driver from the city of Olomouc went under cover for almost a month after he should have started his prison sentence. He eventually turned himself into police after appearing on the podium of a nationwide anti-government protest in the center of Prague at which he was greeted like a hero.

Although the Supreme Court is reviewing his initial sentence imposed after Smetana refused to perform community service, Smetana’s new charges of evading his prison sentence could result in a new prison sentence of up to three years.

Smetana said he refused to go to jail because he refused to recognize the justice of the court decision. It was imposed by the wife of a prominent Civic Democrat (ODS) politician whose husband was the former center-right minister of interior, Ivan Langer.  

ODS political posters were the main ones defaced by Smetana in the midst of the 2010 elections to the lower house of parliament, although he targeted other party personalities with his felt pen as well. The ODS lodged the original criminal charges against the 30-year-old whose case was later taken up by human rights groups and eventually the Minister of Justice Jiří Pospíšil (ODS), who called for the Supreme Court review.

Smetana’s protest has clicked with the widespread public discontent with the ruling center-right coalition of Prime Minister Petr Nečas (ODS) and politicians and political parties in general amid a seemingly endless series of scandals, which appear to confirm the impression amongst most Czechs that their leaders are in the game for themselves and for getting rich.