In this interview, JUDr. Petr Smejkal, the lawyer of Vaclav Kloc, a growshop owner in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic, comments the absurd legal case against his client
Can you briefly describe the Hydroponic case? What exactly does the case concern?
Among others there are two company executives of Hydroponic LLC prosecuted in this case, for an especially serious crime of illegal production and other handling of illegal substances when the prosecution claims that Hydroponic company under the guise of selling goods for growing plants (substrates, fertilizers, pest control, fans, lights etc.) allegedly equipped other subjects with goods intended for establishment of large-scale hemp grow-houses and consequential hemp processing. It’s really just a simplified summary of the indictment.
What is your client actually charged with, what evidence is the prosecution based on and what punishment does he face?
As stated above, my client is prosecuted for establishing and running a company which was selling goods intended for growing plants, while he is also blamed that he distributed marijuana, or he should have accepted marijuana as a form of payment. It’s hard to answer the question what evidence is the indictment built on, because until now all the questioned witnesses as well as records of telecommunication and spatial tapping haven’t confirmed these claims.
Your client has been in custody for 21 months already. What is the reason for such a long detention, is this duration common?
My client is being kept in custody because, according to the opinion given by the court, there is a reasonable concern that in case of his dismissal he might abscond (§ 67 letter a) of the Criminal Code) or he might continue in criminal activities (§67 letter c) of the Criminal Code). It’s difficult to answer if the custody duration is unusual, in case like this the law allows it to last up to 3 years. In context of the whole case I am personally convinced it actually is a very long duration.
Have you made some legal steps that would lead to release of your client so as he could be judged on the loose?
There have been made many steps to release my client from custody. My client repeatedly asked for release from the custody, he offered legal institutions to replace the reasons for custody (written promise, guarantee from trustworthy person, submission to the supervision of probation officer, giving over the passport) and repeatedly submitted complaints against the decision of the court to prolong the custody.
What is your opinion on the work of authorities in the Hydroponic case? The work of police, the judge and the prosecutor?
I would describe the way police proceeded as detrimental to my client and I hold there were substantial procedural errors. There is a statutory period of maximum 1 year custody which was about to expire and the police have deliberately closed the preliminary proceedings to deprive my client of his right to be released from custody. In my opinion the public prosecutor who supervised the case failed to rectify the errors and made procedural errors herself as she continued to prosecute. Before the final decision in this case I can’t hardly evaluate the work of the court itself.
Do you find personally something unusual, substandard about this case?
What I find substandard on this matter is especially the way how the alleged criminal activity of my client is juridically classified. The act he is accused of can not, in my opinion , fulfill the prosecuted crime and whether the proceeding of my client is a crime at all, then under another provision of the Criminal Code which would threaten my client with considerably shorter imprisonment.
Have you ever come across such case in your practice?
In my opinion this is the first case where the owners of a growshop are prosecuted this way.
At what stage is the case now, what will happen and when?
Proceeding is in the phase of the trial which is scheduled for March of this year but I do not suppose the final judgment would be delivered at that time. It is only up to the tribunal to what time is the trial going to be adjourned.
What is the scope of this case (for example number of defendants, witnesses, or international interference) and which authorities are involved (National Anti-drug Headquarters, Interpol)?
It is a fairly extensive case with 16 defendants, witnesses are counted in tens and the case has an international outreach because the activities of defendants were supposed to take place also in Slovakia and Ukraine. The case has been investigated by the National Anti-drug Headquarters, supervised by the Regional Prosecution in Ceske Budejovice and the case is being heard by the Regional Court in Ceske Budejovice.
What amount of marijuana and other drugs had been seized and which methods have been used for assessment of the THC content?
Adding up all the marijuana secured in this criminal case, the total amount of active substance (THC) lies somewhere between 1600 and 1700 grams. But I emphasize that there has been only a few grams not exceeding the amount for personal need found by my client. THC content was identified by individual branches of the Institute of Criminology, and in many cases, according to the statement of the involved experts, by unaccredited methods.
If we forgot to include any important fact in our questions, we ask for completion. Thank you.
I might just add that in my personal opinion this case is absolutely absurdly legally qualified, therefore my client is facing imprisonment between 10–18 years which means the same punishment as for a person accused of the crime of murder.