A new film hits the cinema screens next week about the Czech Republic’s most notorious prisoner - Jiří Kajínek. In 1998, Kajínek was sentenced to life in prison for the gangland killings of a Plzeň businessman and one of his bodyguards, a crime he’s always denied committing. His daring escapes from several of the country’s high security prisons – and persistent doubts about the conviction – have made him something of a popular hero among Czechs.
‘Kajínek’ tells the tale of convicted murderer Jiří Kajínek, a hitman notorious for his daring prison escapes and incredible physical strength. The film reflects the ‘wild east’ atmosphere of Czech society in the early 1990s, when the line between legitimate businessmen and criminal gangs was sometimes rather blurred.
Jiří Kajínek is certainly no angel. He spent most of the 1980s in and out of prison. Then came 1990, and the general amnesty issued by President Havel, under which thousands of prisoners, many of them dangerous, were released.
Kajínek didn’t stay out of jail long – in the same year he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for armed robbery. In 1993, after going on the run, he’s alleged to have committed the crime for which he was sent to prison for life: the contract killing of Plzeň businessman Štefan Janda and his bodyguard. He escaped a number of times, most recently in 2000, when he was found after several months hiding out in a flat belonging to a convicted murderer.
“We gradually discovered a huge number of doubts about the case. We found gap after gap in the evidence for which Jiří Kajínek was sent to prison, and it became quite clear that former members of the West Bohemia police force were involved. That’s why we were interested in the case from a journalistic point of view. It’s being made into a film because Czechs are simply fascinated by the story. I was asked long ago whether I’d agree to write the screenplay. I’m a journalist. As a screenwriter, I would have to deal with the question whether Kajínek was guilty or innocent. So I said no.”
The film is already attracting enormous attention. Many ordinary people are convinced of his innocence, seeing in him almost a Robin Hood-like character who was framed by the authorities. The case has recently been re-opened, with the media claiming to have seen the results of a new investigation suggesting that several corrupt police officers, and not Jiří Kajínek, gunned down the businessman.
As for Jiří Kajínek himself, he has been paid an undisclosed sum for
the rights to the film about him. The producers wanted him to attend next
week’s premiere; the authorities at Mírov Prison seem reluctant to let
that happen, although talks are underway about a special screening behind
the prison walls.
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