Eight years in prison for judicial murder from 1950

Veronika Lehovcová Suchá Veronika Lehovcová Suchá
2. 11. 2007 13:40
86-year-old former prosecutor appeals the verdict
Back in the days (Ludmila Brožová-Polednová in a photograph from the 1950s)
Back in the days (Ludmila Brožová-Polednová in a photograph from the 1950s) | Foto: Národní archiv

Prague - Eight years in prison for complicity in a judicial murder. That is the verdict of the Prague City Court in the trial of a former communist prosecutor Ludmila Brožová-Polednová who helped send a prominent democratic politician Milada Horáková to the gallows 57 years ago.

The trial of Horáková, who was arrested on trumped-up charges of conspiracy and treason, subjected to a scripted show trial and executed in 1950 at the age of 49, became a symbol of the perverted use of justice by the communist regime in former Czechoslovakia against its perceived enemies.

Nobody has ever been punished for what is now considered an undisputable act of judicial murder.

"Condemnation of the brutal regime"

In a landmark case that can render the above sentence invalid, the court found the actions of Brožová-Polednová, who assisted in the prosecution of Horáková, in breach of existing laws as she knew the verdict for Horáková and her three co-defendants had been set up beforehand.

Judge Braun took an hour to explain why he decided the way he did
Judge Braun took an hour to explain why he decided the way he did | Foto: Ludvík Hradilek

"We share the same view on this with the state prosecutor," said the presiding judge Petr Braun at the close of the trial on Thursday.

"In my view this amount to a statement that communism was evil," historian Tomáš Bursík said for Czech TV after the verdict was handed down.

In an earlier interview for Aktuálně.cz Bursík said that former political prisoners and many others were waiting for an unprecedented guilty verdict which would finally condemn the brutality of the communist regime of the 40s and 50s.

The state prosecutor asked for 5 years in prison despite the fact that the minimum penalty for murder is 12 years. He pleaded for an exceptional reduction on the grounds of Brožová-Polednová´s age and poor health.

The defense lawyer, for his part, asked for the acquittal of his client.

"We all know she is not going to jail"

In the end, Judge Braun added three more years on top of what the prosecution was asking for.

"We thought five years was not enough given the irreversibility of death sentence of Ms Horáková and her three co-defendants, "said Braun.

"She will actually never go to prison due to her poor health. We all know that," he added.

Nevertheless, the defense lawyer Vladimír Kovář appealed the verdict today and it is now up to the High Court in Prague to deal with the case.

"Young and inexperienced"

Kovář argued his client had been too young, inexperienced and lacking proper education and not being aware of the fact the trial was in violation of then existing laws. He also pointed out she was not in a position to influence the ruling's outcome.

He also said the defendant was only in her first year at law faculty when the trial took place in the year 1950. She did not feel guilty, he told the court.

Jam-packed. Huge interest surrounded the proceedings
Jam-packed. Huge interest surrounded the proceedings | Foto: Ludvík Hradilek

The state prosecutor, however, rejected Mr. Kovář´s argument: "Brožová was very self-confident in the trial knowing exactly what she was doing. She was not a student who would be only observing things with eyes wide open," he said.

Judge Braun agreed with the state prosecutor. He said the defendant who had served as a prosecutor in two political trials preceding the trial of Horáková including a trial of catholic orders´ superiors," was not a mere passive observer".

According to him Brožová must have known that she was assisting in a judicial murder where the sentences were set in advance.

No one has ever been punished

The 86-year old pensioner did not attend the court proceedings. She excused herself for being blind and deaf and suffering from nausea.

She is only the second person to be sentenced as a former member of the Communist justice system.

The first one was Karel Vaš who ordered a death penalty for General Heliodor Píka, a senior Czechoslovak army officer, in a show trial in 1949.

Vaš was sentenced to seven years in prison. The High Court however annulled the verdict later, arguing the criminal liability of the defendant was time-barred.

 

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