Appeal of Petr Donatek heard in Paris

The Czech man accused of hiring ninjas to beat up Thai refugees has gone on trial in Paris

The appeal of Petr Donatek, a 46-year-old Czech man accused of hiring thugs to attack Thai refugees in Paris, has finally opened and closed. In his testimony, Donatek pleaded that he did not plan the attack.

He was convicted in absentia for having hired two Czechs – Jakub Hosek and Daniel Vokal – to attack Thai trans activist Aum Neko and political refugee Jom Faiyen in Paris on November 17, 2019. The appeal of Donatek has been postponed twice. The verdict is due on March 2.

Donatek is quite the action hero and he really likes swords a lot. He claims to be a “certified swordmaster,” a champion sword cutter, and president of the Czech Toyama-ryu federation. Toyama-ryu is a Japanese system of swordsmanship.

The incident happened at a Paris brasserie. Donatek reportedly watched the attack from a bar across the road. After the deed was done, he returned to the Czech Republic.

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Hosek and Vokal were arrested, found guilty and sentenced to 26 months in jail on November 23, 2021, according to Prachatai English, and have already been released.

Donatek, who Hosek and Vokal named during the trial, was sentenced in absentia to 30 months in jail. Aware of the proceedings, he claimed that he had contracted Covid and was unable to the trial. Denying all involvement in the attack, he appealed the verdict. Believing that his sentence was too lenient, the public prosecutor did the same.

Last year, while travelling in Italy with his family, Donatek was detained on an arrest warrant issued by French authorities in 2021 and was deported to France in October where he has been in jail since.

The appeal of Donatek lasted six hours. No one raised questions about who might have contracted Donatek to plan the attack. Donatek denied any involvement in the incident but acknowledged travelling together with Vokal and Hosek, including having a drink with them in the bar across the road from the attack, just before events unfolded. Donatek claims to have been back at his hotel before the attack took place.

Videos recordings from cameras in the brasserie and bar, including the first few seconds of the assault, were examined at length. Donatek was seen taking pictures in one of the videos. He claimed he was taking a selfie and had nothing to do with the incident.

Prachatai provides testimony in the appeal of Donatek in full.

President of the Court: Despite recanting his confession, Hosek declared the attack had been planned. Do you agree?
Donacek: I didn’t take any part in this assault.
On Nov 11, 2019, you asked Vokal to install Signal [a secure messaging service] on his phone. Why?
I don’t remember, as I don’t use Signal.
What was the purpose of installing Signal?
I don’t have the slightest idea.
Do you acknowledge your nickname on Signal is Gateway?
I don’t. I don’t know who that is.
You mention Action Paris on WhatsApp, why?
In Czech, the word “action” has many different meanings, it can mean “event.”
Why was it mentioned in this conversation?
I set up a group on WhatsApp to organise the trip to Paris, to book the plane tickets and so on.
You posted some pics and you said [according to the official translation] “it’s operational information.”
I would have translated it as “practical” instead of “operational.”
At first, Hosek declared that your role was to monitor the assault and that you were in charge of the financial part of it. What do you say to this?
It’s the first time I have heard this.
Why did you buy plane tickets and hotel rooms for Vokal and Hosek?
They didn’t have credit cards or bank accounts and we were travelling together.
Why did you pay for them?
It was their money; they gave me cash to do the booking.
What’s your opinion about the political situation in Thailand?
I don’t have any.
Are you involved in politics?
Absolutely not.
On Oct 6, 2019, you were already in Paris with Vokal during a first trip with him. You warned him about a group of seven people including four Thais who were standing with guitars at the entrance of a building. You said that the target was not there. What did you mean?
I can’t remember
All those elements suggest a premeditated attack.
I understand, but I didn’t plan any of this.
Did you attend the incident?
No, had I been there, I would remember.
Why did you record a video?
I didn’t
Why did Vokal retract his accusations during the first trial?
I don’t know
What’s your occupation?
I’m a financial director for a few firms. I earn about 6000 euros (US$6,500, 215,000 baht) per month. Some 20 years ago, I worked as a policeman in an anti-narcotics brigade, from 1996 to 2005. I have three degrees related to law, the environment, international relations and Japanese culture.
Do you have much free time?
I’m very busy. My free time is spent on martial arts and things related to Japan.
Do you belong to the Heraldic Brotherhood for the Protection of the Royal Order?
Yes, but I’m a member of other orders too. They are charities.
Why are you interested in Mr Okamura [the leader of a radical right-wing Czech political party]?
I’m not interested in him. I know he is politically active, but I’m not concerned with this. I have friends from many different backgrounds, such as deputies who belong to different political parties.
Lawyer for Donatek: Czech authorities claimed they could not transfer you to France because you are involved in another case?
Yes I was framed when I was in the police. The case has been pending for some time.
Why would you come to France to organise an assault?
This situation is absurd. I didn’t do all those things. I know there are cameras everywhere and that purchases with credit card can easily been traced.
Aum Neko: Why did you study international politics? What’s your political involvement?
I’m not a nationalist. I would say I position myself at the centre, neither left nor right.
Lawyer for the Thai victims: He denies everything but we can see him taking a video; there is no doubt of his presence during the assault.
Public prosecutor: There is an accumulation of evidence indicating that the assault was planned. On November 15, 201,9 Donatek sent pictures of the future victims, and asked his accomplices to monitor them and wait until night time to attack them. He kept watch over the incident when it happened. He says he came to Paris as a tourist and he can’t explain why Hosek charged him, and why he paid for his trip. Confronted with the facts, he can’t answer. I request that he be given a five years jail sentence.
Lawyer for Donatek: Since the beginning, he has insisted he is not guilty. The videos provide no evidence of his presence during the attack. Why would he come to Paris to assault somebody? Maybe he has been framed. Maybe Hosek named him because he wanted to be released from jail. He gave the answers expected from him. All this is absurd. I ask for an acquittal. And if you sentence him, take into account his clean criminal record and his family situation. He has four children.
President of the Court: Mr Donatek would you like to say something more?
Thank you, I’m very tired.



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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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