Analysis: The 2016 arson attack on Klinika Social Center - are the Czech Police incompetent, or omniscient?
How can we recognize the democratic rule of law? In addition to many other factors, equality of all before the law is one sure way.
Since November 1989, we have made a great deal of progress in the Czech Republic compared to the times of communist despotism, but we have not yet managed to achieve equality for all before the law. There are many causes leading to this consequence, and one of them is certainly the gradual coarsening of the atmosphere in society and the legitimizing of speech that we used to associate just with the ultra-right.
Along with that change, understandably, our relationship toward liberal democracy has deteriorated. The "squeaky wheels" who are declaring war on "political correctness" here - but who actually just want to be able to preach abuse, insults, racism, slander and xenophobia with impunity - have been producing an ongoing master class in how to intimidate and shout others down.
Espousing hatred, frequently in connection with calls for violence, is now a common component of the public debate here today, despite the fact that we have two sections of the Criminal Code that criminalize such behavior. They are Section 355 - defamation of an ethnic, national, racial or other group of persons, and Section 356 - incitement to hate a group or restrict its members' freedoms and rights.
You can find the entire wording of both sections of the law (in Czech) HERE. All of this is crowned by what is either the incompetence or the omniscience of the Czech Police - we cannot be certain which will prevail when, or for whom.
Violent thugs from ultra-right groups are evidently given certain advantages by the Czech Police compared to anybody else. Take the specific case of the football hooligans who terrorized Prague on 6 February 2016.
First the hooligans assaulted a peaceful march by those advocating the reception of war refugees in the Czech Republic up at Hradčanské Square - the police officers present just watched the violence without intervening, which means that they themselves broke the law. Then the rowdies set off for the main train station, where they terrorized volunteers aiding refugees.
After that, the hooligans headed for the Klinika Autonomous Social Center, where they did their best to set it on fire, despite knowing that people were inside. At that moment about 20 persons were there, one of whom suffered a head injury as a result of the attack and several of whom inhaled smoke.
The blaze and the rock-throwing at the building resulted in CZK 70 000 [EUR 2 600] worth of damage. News server Aktuálně.cz reported on the aftermath in detail.
Police officers have spent a year investigating this arson attack, with practically zero results. The only violation of the law they found is a possible misdemeanor committed by one of those participating - and police only charged him because he confessed.
Those interrogated who denied their involvement exited the investigation scot-free. The misdemeanor charge will be decided by the Municipal Department of Prague 3, where Klinika is located.
While the police did ascertain the identities of the assailants involved that day, allegedly they have not managed to prove who specifically threw the flares or Molotov cocktails and rocks inside the building. The official pretext for not prosecuting them is that allegedly they cannot be prosecuted as a group.
The above-mentioned sections of the Criminal Code make it possible to prosecute anybody who incites hatred against a class, ethnic group, nationality, race, religion or other group of persons, or anybody who calls for the human rights and freedoms of the members of such a group to be restricted, and for a prison sentence of up to two years for those convicted of these crimes. "A perpetrator shall be punished by deprivation of liberty for between six months and three years if the perpetrator actively participated in such a crime through the activity of an association, group or organization that espouses discrimination, or hatred on the basis of class, ethnicity, race, religion, or any other basis, or violence," the law says.
There is also the option of prosecuting these people for other crimes committed in collusion with one another. Even though the police don't believe it is the case, the attack with flares and Molotov cocktails was de facto an attempt to set people on fire, if not to burn them to death straight away.
While an anarchist is in custody today on charges of planning a terrorist attack because police allege he wanted to throw a Molotov cocktail at a military train (a characterization about which there are misgivings), those who have actually thrown flammables directly into a building full of people are now enjoying impunity. The person who is being prosecuted is, of course, a "lefty", while those who are immune from prosecution are ultra-right, violent thugs.
Have we just discovered which side the police sympathize with? Here is another of many possible examples of this: Police cleared out the proposed march route for the "hate- and-lies" crowd on Wenceslas Square in Prague in July 2015 so the marchers could brandish two mock-ups of gallows and nooses and announce that "traitors" (by which they meant those advocating refugee reception) should be hanged.
The officers felt obliged to remove five people who were attempting to "blockade" the march, despite the fact that the marchers could easily have passed by on either side of them. Police found that the marchers' threats to hang people were allegedly lawful because the gallows were just props and not real.
Of course, a young woman who attempted to defend her boyfriend during the police intervention against the "blockade" was eventually tried. The 52-kg woman was charged with bruising the shoulder of a 90-kg police officer, although video evidence did not support the charges.
Last month the woman was given a suspended sentence in the matter which has yet to take effect. We can, therefore, briefly summarize the approach taken by the police as meaning that (allegedly) bruising an officer's shoulder is a grave felony, much more serious than an attempt to injure or kill anybody else - if we are even considering other people human beings when they're just "lefties", that is.
The same goes for throwing a Molotov cocktail at a military train - military materiel is of course much more valuable than are the lives of a bunch of "lefties". For his part, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) told the public after the arson attack on Klinika that the Government expected an independent, thorough investigation by police because it is important the perpetrators be discovered.
Well, he can be satisfied - they were indeed discovered! Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, who constantly praises "his" police, can also be satisfied, whether by this botched investigation of the right-wing extremists, or by the police unlawfully removing Tibetan flags from the windows of buildings during the Chinese President's visit.
In other words, the police have just sent the perpetrators of the arson attack on Klinika a love letter in a pink envelope, tied with a bow, in which the following is inscribed in calligraphy: "Dear Friends of Football, Next time go ahead and fire your flares or throw your bottles full of gasoline at whomever you like, we will not prosecute you for it. Enjoy your freedom! We look forward to seeing you again and greeting you with our motto, which is 'To Aid and Protect Ultra-Right Extremists'."
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