Graffiti on Charles Bridge. via Raymond Johnston

Prague trial starts for two Germans accused of Charles Bridge graffiti, as one now denies guilt

One of the two brothers accused of graffiti on Charles Bridge now claims to have been a bystander

The Prague 1 District Court has reopened the case of the two German tourists who spray painted a large logo on a pillar of Charles Bridge in the summer.

The case was originally settled in an expedited process, with the two brothers apologizing and accepting a one-year suspended sentence, five-year expulsion from the Czech Republic, 100,000 CZK fine each, and cleanup costs of 40,000 CZK. They had faced from six months to three years in prison.

Shortly after they returned to Germany, however, they hired a lawyer and objected to the original sentence.

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Graffiti on Charles Bridge. via Raymond Johnston

The younger brother, Niklas S, age 23, has confessed to the act. The older brother, Benjamin W, age 30, now denies any guilt in the July 15 graffiti incident. The pair returned from Germany for a trial, which will continue in November.

Prosecutor Jan Lelek maintains they committed hooliganism resulting in 40,000 CZK in damages when they sprayed a 5 x 2.5 meter turquoise and black logo with the word “Sepsis” on Charles Bridge.

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“Yes, I feel guilty for doing it. I know 100% that I did it myself,” Niklas S said during the October 17 hearing, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes. After drinking beer, they came across a skateboard shop that sold spray paint. “I bought it so that I could spray at home later; we don’t have shops like that in our town,” Niklas S added.

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Spray cans used at Charles Bridge. via Metropolitan Police

They were looking for a place to urinate when they came across a Charles Bridge pillar on the Malá Strana side. “I thought, this is a quiet spot. You can spray here,” Niklas S said, adding that he wouldn’t have done it if he knew it was an important landmark.

Benjamin W said he was unaware of what was happening. “I don’t feel guilty. My brother saw a skateboard shop and went shopping there. I wasn’t interested,” he said.

He did not know what his younger brother was doing until it was all over, he claimed. “He [Niklas S] left for five to six minutes. Then I was surprised by what I saw. I saw him with his hands dirty,” Benjamin W said.

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Hand of one of the suspects. via Metropolitan Police

Benjamin W works as an IT specialist for the German armed forces, Bundeswehr, and any conviction for a deliberate offense could have severe consequences for him. “I guess I could have lost my job because of that,” he said.

The police officer who responded to the scene also testified, saying that Niklas S was caught by the graffiti with his hands covers in paint, while Benjamin W was off to the side with a can of beer. He apparently asked the officer for permission to urinate.

“It seemed to me as if he was cleaning his hands, which were covered in paint,” the police officer said. The trial will continue with the interrogation of other witnesses in November.

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The outline of the graffiti can still be seen on Charles Bridge. via Raymond Johnston

The cleaning of the graffiti also sparked some controversy. Conservationists and the Municipal Road Administration (TSK) were in the process of starting a two-week process to remove the paint by hand when a professional graffiti remover took the initiative to remove it all at once with pressurized water and a chemical agent in the early morning hours of July 28.The cleaner was later identified as Miroslav Černý. He declined payment when it was offered by Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates).

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Graffiti has become a big issue in Prague. The Lennon Wall in Malá Strana is now being renovated and graffiti will no longer be allowed once it is finished. Instead, professional artists will paint on it according to a unified theme. New murals should go up once or twice a year. A small space might be left for the public to write on, but details have not been determined.

Some artists, though, are pressing for more space for public street art and have put up several works with permission of the property owners.

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Scaffolding at the Lennon Wall. via Raymond Johnston

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