Czech court gives vandals of businesses in the "HateFree Zone" suspended sentences
Five people charged with spray-painting cafés and shops in Prague last year that were participating in the "HateFree" campaign have been convicted and given suspended sentences of between two and nine months in prison, as well as ordered to pay compensation for some of the damage caused within the realm of their possibilities. Two defendants must surrender the mobile telephones they used to film the spray-painting as it was happening.
The Czech News Agency asked presiding Judge Radek Mařík of the Prague 3 District Court to provide a copy of the court order, which has yet to take effect. The court found four of the defendants guilty not just of property damage, but also of demonstrating sympathy for movements that aim to suppress human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Those convicted of that charge spray-painted neo-Nazi symbols on the facades of various establishments. Another judge said those charged had committed the crime "because the businesses had joined the 'HateFree Culture' project, which is connected with persons espousing left-wing political opinions, and the vandals demonstrated that they considered these enterprises to therefore be connected with left-wing persons, who oppose right-wing extremists through their attitudes and opinions."
The defendants can appeal the court order. If they do so, it will be overturned and the court will hold a public hearing on the matter.
The defamatory graffiti appeared on the facades of several businesses during the night of 24 April 2016. The vandals targeted firms on Francouzská Street, Jiří z Poděbrad Square, and Vinohradská Street in Prague.
The perpetrators spray-painted, among other things, the slogans "Anti-Antifa", "Smrt Hate Free" ("Death to Hate Free"), "Uprchlíci táhněte" ("Refugees go home"). Other graffiti threated to burn down the Klinika Autonomous Social Center.
The symbols and texts were researched by experts. Police say they came to the conclusion that the content of some of the graffiti was a demonstration of sympaty for existing neo-Nazi movements that espouse the legacy of Nazi Germany.
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