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August 17, 2018
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Attorneys for anarchist defendants allege Czech Police instigated plan for unrealized train attack

11.9.2017 7:14
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Attorneys representing anarchists charged with planning a terrorist attack on a train in the Czech Republic are seeking their acquittal. The circumstances, according to them, only came about as a consequence of undercover police provocation.

The defense made its closing arguments in the case before the Municipal Court in Prague on 8 September. State prosecutor Vladimír Pazourek, on the other hand, is convinced that the five defendants are guilty and is proposing punishments ranging from a suspended sentence to 12 years in prison.

Three people face between 12 and as many as 20 years in prison, or the possibility of extraordinary sentencing, for making preparations to commit a terrorist attack on a train. According to the indictment, in April 2015 they buried two Molotov cocktails containing a flammable mixture of gasoline, polystyrene and vegetable oil near a railway bridge where the attack was allegedly meant to happen.

Two women are now indicted for failing to prevent the planning of the attack. Despite the fact that more and more evidence refuting the police version of events has gradually come to light, the prosecution is still insisting on a 12-year prison sentence.

Defense attorney Ondrej Štefánik rejects the indictment's characterization of the defendants as terrorists. He questions whether an attack using that particular kind of flammable mixture would have actually posed a threat to either the constitutional or democratic principles of the state, which in his view is a necessary prerequisite for terrorism charges.

The defense has also rejected charges that the alleged perpetrators wanted to intimidate the population or destroy the country's transportation system. "Even if the train had caught fire, all of the structures of the state would have remained unaffected," he argued.

Štefánik referenced expert testimony that he believes demonstrates that had the attack been carried out, only the train's wooden flooring might have caught fire from the flammable mixture. "What would have happened? The fire would have been put out and the next day nobody would have said anything about it," he argued.

The defense attorney went on to say that if any charges should be brought at all for preparing the Molotov cocktails, the maximum charge should be one of attempted property damage. For that felony the harshest punishment is a maximum of six years in prison.

Attorneys also rejected charges that their clients had somehow created an organized group, and they criticized the approach taken by police agents involved in the case. They allege that police began working on gathering evidence against the defendants before the court issued its approval for them to do so.

The defense also believes the entire idea for the attack came from secret police agents who allegedly urged the defendants do it. "It is interesting that they have no record of the moment when the idea for the attack came about," Štefánik pointed out.

Active agents?

The defendants and their legal representatives have long referred to police agents playing an active role in preparing the attack. Czech online news server Deník Referendum (DR) has dedicated a detailed series of articles to the scandal, reporting that the attack was allegedly the police agents' idea.

"[The defendants] disagree with the prosecution about the wiretaps which, together with the agents' testimonies, are supposed to be the main evidence, saying they are too incomplete to draw conclusions from. Allegedly the defendants knew the actual identity of the agents from the beginning and made up stories about the plans for the attack in order to unmask the secret police. For that reason, the defendants delayed the attack and during the negotiations emphasized that nobody was supposed to be hurt - claims that have been confirmed both by the agents' testimonies and the wiretap evidence. Moreover, they buried the Molotov cocktails at a location where the train in question was not running," DR reports.

Petr Šťastný, the attorney for defendant Petr Sova, the alleged designer of the attack, told DR he considers the police agents' activities and testimonies to be embarrassing and tendentious. "The agents obfuscated, they claimed to be unable to recall basic things," he said.

"My feeling is that this is not just selective memory loss, but that the selection is intentional," Šťastný said. Writing in DR, journalist Petra Dvořáková has reported on the case as follows:

"The police officers had deployed their people and invested public funds into the undercover action. It was necessary to show a result, and in April 2015, two days before their permission for the deployment was to expire, the police arrested 11 people. They spent many long hours interrogating them, searched their homes, confiscated their property. Three of those arrested ended up remanded into custody, and Ignačák has already served a sentence of a year and a half. Six people were charged. The case of an Aleš K., charged with unauthorized weapons possession, was handled by a court in Brno, which gave him a suspended sentence. The purpose of the police action was to demonstrate that they had allegedly found the members of something called the 'Revolutionary Cells Network' (Sít' revolučních buněk), which had previously claimed responsiblity for an arson attack on a police vehicle."

The state prosecutor considers the undercover police agents' testimonies to be crucial evidence against the defendants, and the case is also related to another police raid against extremists from April 2014. The trial first began in August 2016.

ČTK, adg, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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