Donatek could not be judged on January 19th mainly because of a general strike in France. Credit: Patrice Victor

Trial of man accused of attacking Thai political refugees in Paris postponed again

The trial of the alleged mastermind behind an assault on two Thai political refugee in Paris has once again been postponed due to a lack of interpreter and a sudden mass protest.

Demonstrators wearing orange jackets inside and outside of a Thai restaurant in Paris on January 19.

Initially scheduled for December 1st, this much awaited appeal trial was rescheduled to January 19th.  However, as fate would have it, on the 19th, a general strike against a bill to reform the French pension system resulted in major disruptions in public transport.

Although the accused, a Czech national named Petr Donatek, appeared in court along with his alleged Thai victims and court officials, a Czech interpreter did not show up.

There is a growing risk that the court may soon have to release Mr. Donatek, who has been detained for a considerable amount of time without trial.  Nevertheless, the president of the court declared that “It's not possible to judge Mr Donatek using a language he cannot understand.” In order to avoid releasing the suspect, the president not only rescheduled the hearing to a near date, February 1st, but also did something quite unusual.

She committed herself to summon not one, but two Czech interpreters for February 1st in case one doesn't show up, and begged the Thai interpreter not to be absent that day.

Donatek’s lawyer told journalists that his client is eager to talk to the court and will probably continue to deny any involvement in the attack.  Donatek is also reported to have said that life in a French jail is hell, much worst than in Italy where he was arrested and detained before being transferred to France.

The delay again put off a chance to ascertain the identity of the mastermind behind the attack against Aum Neko, and Nithiwat Wannasiri or Jom Faiyen, Thai political refugees living in France. The incident happened in Paris around midnight on 17 November 2019 when a small group of Thai refugees and a few of their friends left Le Zinc, a brasserie in District 15 of Paris.

Two Czech nationals, Jakub Hosek and Daniel Vokal, were later arrested for the attack. They may have had an additional target, Jaran Ditapichai, whose picture was found in one of their phones. By chance, Jaran was elsewhere at the time of the attack.

During their trial, the two henchmen claimed to have been hired by a third Czech man, Petr Donatek.  Donatek was in Paris on the day of the assault but returned home to the Czech Republic without being arrested. Hosek and Vokal received 26 months jail sentences and have already been released. The alleged organiser of the attack, Donatek, was sentenced to 30 month in jail in absentia.

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: [email protected], please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”