The two people caught spray painting a pillar of Charles Bridge earlier this week have been sentenced during an abridged non-public proceeding. Monument care experts are seeking the least damaging way of removing the five by two meter design.
The culprits, two German tourists aged 23 and 30, will have to pay fines of CZK 100,000 each plus CZK 40,000 to cover the damage, according to a Prague 1 District Court ruling.
They are also being expelled from the Czech Republic for five years and have to be out of the country by midnight July 19. A one-year jail sentence was suspended.
They could have received three years in prison, as the Charles Bridge is a cultural monument. The normal penalty for graffiti is one year.
The culprits, who were intoxicated at the time of arrest on the evening of July 15, were in Prague to attend a concert. While police did not disclose the name of the band, the German heavy metal group Rammstein had two large arena concerts in Prague on July 16 and 17.
The image painted on Charles Bridge was the name of another metal band, Sepsis, flanked by two upside down crosses. Sepsis is no longer together.
The culprits were caught after a local citizen called police. One had a spray can in his hand and the other was holding a beer.
Judge Pavla Hájková said they accepted the sentence and expressed regret. One of them admitted to painting the graffiti, and the other to recording it with a camera. “The one who admitted the activity said they did not realize how important the monument was,” Hajkova said, according to press reports.
The two culprits declined to talk to the press.
Judge Hájková said the sentence was in line with the punishment for a 48-year-old graffiti perpetrator in 2017 who wrote on the statue of St. Francis on Charles Bridge. The court expelled him for three years, imposed a six-month suspended sentence and a fine for damages in the amount of CZK 15,000.
State prosecutor Jan Lelek does not intend to appeal. “The penalties are fitting,” he said.
German Ambassador to the Czech Republic Christoph Israng apologized for the incident on Twitter. “[Mayor] Zdeněk Hřib is right: This insane scribble is cultural barbarism. It fills us with a deep shame. We are sorry. Visitors to this beautiful city must treat it with respect,” he said.
Conservationists and the Municipal Road Administration (TSK) are looking for the best way to remove the graffiti. They are used to dealing with smaller paintings. Martin Pácal, head of the care department of the National Heritage Institute, called the damage “really terrible,” adding that there has never been graffiti of such size on the bridge before.
The depth of paint penetration makes sandblasting or other mechanical removal impracticable. A chemical removal method is more suitable.