October 18, 2007
Victim of Hate Crime Indicted
Hedvig Malina’s Ordeal in the
Slovak Legal System
Police tampering with evidence; the suspicious death of an alleged complainant; fundamental human rights and criminal procedure violations; official harassment, public humiliation and vilification of the victim, are but some of the facts that point to the Slovak government’s and authorities’ deep complicity in the case of Hedvig Malina, a by now 24-year-old ethnic Hungarian university student from Nitra (Hungarian: Nyitra), Slovakia.
According to her lawyer, “neither she, her truth nor the weight of evidence have been important from the very day of her attack,” August 25, 2006, when on her way to school in the morning, two men berated Ms. Malina for speaking in Hungarian, then robbed and beat her. Photographs taken in the aftermath of the assault show the severe injuries to her face, stomach, arms and legs. After making her way to the university, students and teachers also noticed two anti-Hungarian slurs scrawled on her blouse, thus elevating the attack to a hate crime. [See inset below for details].
Yet, for the past 14 months, not only have the authorities failed to identify and charge the perpetrators who brutally beat her, on May 14, 2007 authorities indicted Ms. Malina for allegedly bearing false witness when she detailed the crime committed against her to police. With mounting evidence of official tampering of evidence, however, by July 24, 2007, national police chief Ján Packa conceded that “someone” had indeed attacked Hedvig Malina. On September 22, 2007, Slovak Prosecutor General Dobroslav Trnka then admitted to serious and irreversible mistakes by the police and prosecutors’ offices and, on September 25, replaced the lead prosecutor with a new team to investigate what really happened.
At a September 11 special press conference last year, just 17 days after Ms. Malina was assaulted, police had abruptly announced the closure of the investigation in the company of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak who accused Ms. Malina of fabricating her own attack [HHRF Statement: Slovak Prime Minister Assails 23 Year-Old Victim, September 20, 2006]. Since then the full force of the police, prosecutors’ offices and the country’s highest officeholders have borne down on her to prove her a liar. Even Slovak television reporters who questioned the investigation were fired in January 2007 for their supposed “unbalanced reporting” of her attack.
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“This girl has endured at minimum three trips to hell” concluded psychiatrist Jozef Hasto after 30 hours of discussion with Ms. Malina and went on to add: “I can state responsibly, with sound mind that I have no doubts that this incident transpired in the manner she describes, how she remembers it.”
The attack against Ms. Malina was the most brutal assault in the wave of anti-Hungarian and anti-minority incidents that followed inclusion of ultra-nationalistic parties in the new Slovak government formed in July 2006. [See HHRF Report “Ethnically-Motivated Attacks Increase against Minorities in the Wake of New Slovak Government Formed with Extremist Party,” September 5, 2006]
Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák on a press conference, accusing Malina Hedvig of fabricating her own attack
n August 25, 2006, Malina Hedvig was viscously attacked by two unknown male assailants after they heard her speaking Hungarian. The victim was walking to school in a park underpass close to Nitra University. After regaining consciousness, she managed her way back to campus where teachers and students discovered ethnic slurs scrawled in Slovak on her blouse “Hungarians beat it to the other side of the Danube” and “Slovakia without parasites.” The medical reports issued by the local hospital and the one in Dunajska Streda [Hungarian: Dunaszerdahely], where she was later transported, confirmed multiple injuries: lacerations and bleeding on the face and mouth due to blunt force trauma, contusions on the abdominal area and thighs, vaginal bleeding, and the probability of a concussion.
Police actions strongly suggest that already during the initial investigation of the attack their focus swiftly turned from apprehending the assailants to proving Ms. Malina a liar. HHRF’s Statement of September 20, 2006: “Slovak Prime Minister Assails 23 Year-Old Victim” details most of the inconsistencies that surfaced in the investigation up until that time.
Evidence of Criminal Procedure, Due Process and
Human Rights Violations; Willful Police Misconduct; and
Prosecutorial Cover-Up in the Case of
Hedvig Malina’s August 25, 2006 Attack
Crime Scene Investigation Irregularities
Some of the police actions Jozef Sátek, former head of the Slovak police force’s anti-corruption unit questions regarding the immediate aftermath of the attack and the initial crime scene investigation:
Why did police arrive at the crime scene four hours later and without police dogs?
Why was Ms. Malina’s bra and skirt—also soiled according to eyewitnesses— not taken into evidence and examined?
Why did police not obtain tapes from the town’s and a nearby shopping center’s video surveillance cameras?
Why did police not make a sketch of the crime scene and an inventory of the size, color and other characteristics of objects found there?
Failure to Pursue Witness Leads
“The incident occurred in that park exactly the way Malina described,” declared a witness on June 19 in a TA3 Television interview. The man — who remains anonymous — stated that he knows the identity of one of the attackers, a skinhead from the town of Nitra he labeled “basically a Hungarian-hating nationalist.” According to this witness, the man admitted the crime to a family member and was an initial suspect police let go. The police, however, have failed to officially interview the witness, Zdeno K., with Ms. Malina’s lawyer present. On July 3, Chief of Police spokesman Martin Korch announced that the witness had nothing to say which would affect the substance of the case and would warrant re-opening it. In a closed case, no [new] witnesses can be interrogated, concluded Korch.
In the days after the attack, when police had supposedly rounded up, examined and eliminated hundreds of suspects, Ms. Malina was not asked to identify in a line-up a suspect who matched the description she gave to the police.
Furthermore, there is no mention in the official transcript of several suspects the interior minister announced the police had interrogated and cleared at the end of August 2006.
The first witnesses to the aftermath of the attack-- nine students and teachers—were only questioned six months after the incident.
Denying the Right to Legal Counsel; Threats and Harassment
Police denied the victim’s right to legal counsel, repeatedly humiliated her and applied coercive tactics to pressure her into changing her testimony. On September 9, 2006 police took Ms. Malina in under the false pretense that she would be asked to identify two suspects in a line up. Instead, she was interrogated for nine hours and not allowed to call her attorney. Six officers continually shouted and cursed at her, accused her of lying and being a disgrace to the entire nation and country, and ultimately threatened to put her in preliminary detention if “she didn’t admit everything.”
Denying the Right to Know and Confront her Accuser
The motives and associations of Ms. Malina’s alleged accusers are highly questionable and the authenticity of their written complaints suspect.
Juraj Kubla is the man who allegedly reported Ms. Malina in writing to the police in November 2006 for giving false testimony. For seven months police kept Kubla’s identity a secret, denying Ms. Malina the right to know and confront her accuser. When Kubla failed to appear at a 9:00 am hearing on May 24, 2007, police told Ms. Malina — also summoned — that the accuser had died. The police claimed that they had not known of Kubla’s death on May 4, just two days after they announced an indictment would be filed against Ms. Malina. Within hours, Chief of police spokesman Martin Korch changed his account of Kubla’s cause of death from natural causes to suicide. Police continue to withhold the contents of a purported suicide note.
Within a day, police announced the existence of an alleged second complainant, Peter Korek. A former employee of the Slovak Information Service (SIS), Korek supposedly mailed his complaint on October 6, 2006 because he was “a taxpayer offended by Ms. Malina’s assertions that suggest she lives in a nationalistic state.” Korek works for the same member of the Slovak Parliament—Peter Gruber—as does Zuzana Trnková, wife of the prosecutor general.
Tampering with and Concealing Evidence
On October 2, 2007, when defense attorney Robert Kvasnica received the file from the prosecutor’s office, Peter Korek’s written complaint—the basis for the indictment—was missing.
On July 25, 2007 police admitted that they had doctored the transcript of their September 9, 2006 interview with Ms. Malina after her attack by omitting a critical sentence from her in the transcription.
In his May 21 motion to dismiss the indictment of perjury against Ms. Malina, attorney Kvasnica cited the following due process violations:
The defense was denied the right to examine and evaluate evidence.
The Prosecution had failed to adequately notify defense counsel: The public was informed about the indictment before Ms. Malina or her counsel, who learned about it from the press.
The Prosecutor General, Dobroslav Trnka, informed the media that Ms. Malina would be charged before the competent authorities had made that decision
The indictment failed to state when, where and how the alleged false testimony and perjury occurred.
The indictment did not cite Hedvig Malina’s purported false testimony to police, presumably to prevent her from rebutting the charge at trial.
No Recourse for the Victim in the Judicial System
Ms. Malina’s September 18, 2006 85-page complaint to the prosecutor documenting police mishandling of her case was rejected on October 17, 2006 citing Article 193, Paragraph 1 of the Penal Code. On September 26, 2006 her attorney submitted an additional 41-page complaint, followed by two more, to various prosecutors’ offices, requesting that her case be reopened. All were rejected. On May 24, the Slovak Constitutional Court also rejected her December 15, 2006 complaint which documented police violations of her human rights.