National Resistance trial starts in the Czech Republic
Neo-Nazis could serve long prison terms for what were allegedly “childish pranks”
It would seem that the words of former Czech Interior Minister Martin Pecina are finally coming true. After taking office last May, he promised to deliver a harsh blow to domestic “extremists”, and the police on his watch did actually manage to track down the alleged perpetrators of the Vítkov arson attack on trial today in Ostrava.
What can those who are the leaders of the neo-Nazi scene be prosecuted for? They have not participated in violent actions for years – or rather, the police have not managed to prove their participation in such actions. That was the basic question the Organized Crime Detection Unit (Útvar pro odhalování organizovaného zločinu - ÚOOZ) asked itself when it started this work at the end of 2008. After several raids and an “above-average” investigation conducted by Prague state prosecutor Zdeňka Galková, at least some of the alleged heads of the neo-Nazi movement in the Czech Republic were charged in mid-June with promoting Nazism. Czech daily Lidové noviny reports that the trial will start in mid-July at the Prague 1 District Court.
The case file is more than 2 500 pages long and includes the Supreme Administrative Court and Constitutional Court verdicts banning the Workers’ Party. Commentator Tomáš Pecina posted the 30-page indictment on his website at the start of July, calling it a “Husák-style indictment” [Translator’s Note: Husák was the long-term Communist president of Czechoslovakia]. He criticizes the state prosecutor for bringing the indictment over the mere posting of stickers or organization of public gatherings. He criticizes phrases such as “social defectiveness”, found in political scientist Ivo Svoboda’s expert testimony, which he publishes along with the photographic documentation of the propaganda materials confiscated from the accused. The commentator does not indicate how he managed to get a hold of these documents, which are redacted to refer to those indicted and the witnesses by their initials alone, with the exception of two Austrian citizens. Those familiar with the neo-Nazi scene, however, will easily guess who is specifically being referred to.
The aims of groups such as National Resistance (Národní odpor) were commented on some time ago by the spokesperson for the Security Information Service (BIS), Jan Šubert: “Their political program is unambiguous, there is no doubt: Political dictatorship, the creation of a racially pure state, and merciless combat with whomever disagrees.”
Political scientist and expert on extremism Miroslav Mareš says of the current indictment of the National Resistance members: “The crimes for which they are now indicted are not really what most of those charged should be tried for.”
Eight people are charged with the crime of supporting and promoting Nazism as part of an organized group, for which they face up to eight years in prison. Among these “worthy 30-year-olds” is the accountant F.V., who has been previously convicted of many other crimes. He is the alleged founder of National Resistance, which although never officially registered was nevertheless banned by the Supreme Court in 2006. The long-time leader of that party’s candidate list in Prague, the student P.V., currently spending his ninth month in custody, and the administrative staffer M.H., who until recently was the leader of the party’s candidate list in Vysočina, are the other Workers’ Party leaders indicted. Another “celebrity” is the dispatcher P.F. of Prague, who is famous from the “Blue Star” case. That was the name of a restaurant in České Budějovice where, at the end of 1999, the hard core of the recently-formed National Resistance and roughly 30 young neo-Nazis brutally attacked the unsuspecting guests at a Roma party. The angry gang then proceeded through the town in order to attack the guests at a club where left-wing youth usually gather. After many long years of court delays, more than 20 youths were eventually sentenced for their roles in these attacks, but only a few of them served actual prison sentences.
The youngest defendant in the National Resistance case is sales manager M.D., who represents its women’s branch, Resistance Women Unity. Only one of the defendants has done time before; for committing a crime while on probation, the court changed his previous sentence to a total of six weeks in prison.
The state’s covert response to the “battle for Janov”
The prosecution of this alleged neo-Nazi elite covers a total of four crimes committed between November 2008 and June 2009. A significant portion of the investigation took place under former Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer, specifically after the infamous “battle for Janov”.
On the 2008 anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the Workers’ Party organized a political demonstration in the North Bohemian town of Litvínov. From the demonstration point, hundreds of these “proponents of law and order” set off, accompanied by police, for the Janov quarter of Litvínov. Their fierce clashes with 1 000 police resulted in many injured police officers, demonstrators, and local onlookers. Almost none of those who committed this violence were ever criminally prosecuted, inspiring those who participated in the battle to commit further violent acts. According to police, those indicted for the April 2009 arson attack in Vítkov also participated in the Janov battle. Klára Kalibová, an expert on extremism from the In Iustitia association, told CNN that the primary aim of the battle in Litvínov was not to attack police officers, but to attack the Roma living there, whom the police managed to protect after several hours of unprecedented tenacity.
After this “battle”, Langer praised the police for their “selfless engagement” and later gave some of them medals. At the same time however, he faced harsh criticism from human rights organizations who claimed the police must have known in advance that the neo-Nazis had been publicly calling for armed conflict. Since the police had sufficient advance evidence of this, they therefore had a reason to disperse the entire action and arrest its participants from its very first moments instead of allowing it to proceed.
Even after Janov, it seemed for quite some time that the Interior Ministry would be taking no other steps against the neo-Nazis. At the start of April 2009, similar street clashes took place in the Moravian town of Přerov, which police units again used force to disperse. Here too, only a fraction of the total number of those committing violence were ever criminally prosecuted; those who were prosecuted were only charged with disturbing the peace.
After this, the most serious racist crime in the country’s modern history took place, a nighttime Molotov cocktail attack on a Romani family in Vítkov. Two months later, the so-called “middle management” of the neo-Nazi movement was arrested, namely the producers and sellers of neo-Nazi music. Proceeds from the sale of this music have been financing the movement for years, including its organization of violent demonstrations and its pricey lawyers’ bills.
Childish pranks or the revival of the Third Reich?
Thanks to commentator Pecina, the public is learning today that the police did start taking action after the second “battle for Janov”. At the end of November 2008, immediately after Janov, police put wiretaps on the Czech section of the country’s neo-Nazi leaders and followed their preparations for a “strong action”, the posting of propaganda material the night before an “Anti-fascist Action” gathering against racism in mid-December in Prague. When the anti-fascists marched through Prague’s Old Town, they were greeted along the route by brand-new posters advertising the National Resistance web address which the defendants had allegedly posted.
Defendant P. V.’s attorney, Robert Cholenský, has been quoted in the media as saying the posting of the materials was “not a crime”. Cholenský, who used to work for the League of Human Rights, has successfully represented victims of police brutality, be they individual Roma or the cases of participants in the CzechTek music festival. Since last year he has also been defending one of those arrested during the “Power I” police action. These defendants have either refused to testify or have claimed they were “randomly” on the scene and posted nothing.
|“According to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the Constitution of the Czech Republic (…) censorship is impermissible. However, it seems the Constitution has become merely a worthless shred of paper which our overlords are simply not interested in.” Such is the opinion of Petr Kotáb on the indictment. Kotáb is the former vice-chair of the Workers’ Party and the lead candidate of the Workers’ Social Justice Party in the Ústí district for this year’s parliamentary elections.|
Some of the defendants are being prosecuted for organizing a “commemoration” in Jihlava at the start of June 2009. Five of the defendants together with leading neo-Nazis from Austria allegedly wanted to pay homage to the German soldiers who died during WWII. Those invited included 50-year-old Gottfried Küssel, who was sentenced in 1993 to 10 years in prison in Vienna for the crime of attempting to revive the Nazi state; he served six years of his sentence. Jihlava was also visited by 85-year-old commentator Herbert Schweiger, a former member of Adolf Hitler’s SS Leibstandarte military unit which committed war crimes during WWII. This past April, Schweiger was sentenced to seven months in prison for the crime of attempting to revive the Nazi state by the Municipal High Court in Graz.
In the end, the Jihlava town hall dispersed the commemoration because it diverted from its officially announced purpose. The participants then set off on a protest march through the town. They laid their wreaths on the soldiers’ graves the following day. Attorney Cholenský says it is not possible to sue someone for organizing a public gathering. Here again, the defendants have refused to testify; some have simply said the action was announced as legally required. They allegedly did not participate in organizing it, and they allegedly did not intend to violate any laws by participating in it.
The main defendant – 20-year-old M. D. of Prague – has supposedly participated in all four of the crimes being prosecuted. She is the only one being prosecuted for creating and operating the neo-Nazi website of Resistance Women Unity (RWU), the women’s branch of National Resistance. Here the key witness is the famous co-founder of the League against Anti-Semitism, V. T. of Plzeň, who managed to convince the US-based server hosting the RWU website to take it down. The website was allegedly listed under her name without her consent. The RWU website creators subsequently transferred its contents to another website and carried on until M. D. was taken into custody. According to the indictment, she operated the website alone. She refused to testify to police. She is also the only defendant charged with organizing, arranging and holding the “White Power Music” concert in the town of Srby u Kladna, where on 2 February 2009 neo-Nazi bands promoted hatred against “Jews, Roma and non-white immigrants”.
According to the file, M. D.’s underbelly is tattooed with the SS motto “My honor is loyalty” - in German. She was born in the year of the Velvet Revolution.
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