Czech court hands down seven suspended sentences against members of neo-Nazi group after trial that lasted 11 years
In the protracted case of the promotion of neo-Nazism invoving the National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) group, the District Court for Prague has imposed suspended sentences of between nine and 18 months in prison on the seven defendants. The court also said defendant Patrik Vondrák's case must be handled in a separate proceeding.
When asked by the Czech News Agency, court spokesperson Pavla Hájková provided the information on 12 October. The defendants have always maintained their innocence.
The court had initially stopped their prosecution due to its length, and that decision was subsequently upheld by the Regional Court in Prague. However, both lower-instance resolutions were annulled by the Czech Supreme Court in March 2020.
The courts have been hearing the case since 2010. The strictest sentence of one and a half years in prison, conditionally suspended, was imposed on Michaela Dupová.
Defendant Richard Lang was sentenced to one year in prison, conditionally suspended. The court sentenced the remaining defendants - Milan Hroch, Martin Václavek, Daniel Zavadil, Petr Fryč and Filip Vávra - to nine months in prison with a one-year suspension.
As of last week the verdict had yet to take effect and had already been appealed by both Lang and Zavidal, while the other defendants reserved the right to appeal within the legally permitted timeframe. The court has punished all those convicted for supporting and promoting movements aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms.
The indictment describes four acts concerning, for example, physically posting promotional materials for the neo-Nazi NO on 4 December 2008 in the center of Prague, as well as organizing and holding a rally and march on 6 June 2009 in Jihlava. A municipal official terminated the Jihlava event as soon as it began.
The event had been announced to officials and the public as being a memorial march to honor the memory of the victims of World War II. Its real purpose, however, according to the indictment, was to honor the memory of fallen Wehrmacht soldiers and to pay homage to Nazi SS members.
The third act described in the indictment concerned the creation and operation of the Resistance Women Unity (RWU) website, which according to the police was the women's branch of the NO. The fourth and final act concerned organizing a concert of so-called "White Power" music in February 2009 in Srby (Kladno district).
The courts began hearing the criminal case 11 years ago and several panels of judges have been in charge of it. The District Court acquitted the suspects in October 2012, severely criticizing the work of the police officers who conducted the preliminary proceedings for allegedly failing to secure sufficient evidence.
That court said it had no choice but to release the defendants. A superior court overturned that verdict a year later.
In 2016 the trial resumed and was later stopped in closed session in 2018 due to its excessive length. That resolution was upheld on appeal.
The Czech Supreme Court ruled last year, however, that the criminal proceedings would continue. In that decision, the Supreme Court stated, inter alia, that the lower courts would have to fundamentally reflect the length of the proceedings in their decisions if the defendants were found guilty.
The defendants have all maintained their innocence. At the new main trial, which began in April this year, they also commented on the length of the criminal proceedings.
Dupová said that a lot had changed for her in 11 years, but insisted on her innocence nonetheless. Lang once again pointed out how the prosecution has affected his personal and professional life, likening the proceedings to the persecution of Charter 77 signatories during the communist regime.
Lang denied that he had ever participated in physically posting any promotional materials, but admitted to participating in the Jihlava march, pointing out that the very same event had taken place there before and that no one had been prosecuted for it. He added that the opinions he held back then were those of his youth and that in the last 11 years there has been a shift in his views.
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