Czech court overturns acquittal in radical Islamic book distribution case
The Prague Municipal Court, meeting in closed session, has overturned the acquittal of the former chair of the Muslim Community of Prague, Vladimír Sáňka, and returned the case to the District Court for Prague 1 to be reopened. Prague Municipal Court spokesperson Markéta Puci provided the information in response to a query by the Czech News Agency on 9 February.
The case concerns the publication in Czech translation of a book by Bilal Philips entitled The Fundamentals of TAWHEED (Islamic Monotheism) (Základy tauhídu - Islámský koncept boha). Philips is not allowed to enter some Western countries and his book is also banned in some states.
According to the annual report on extremism published by the Czech Interior Mnistry, the book promotes the Salafist branch of the religion of Islam, which espouses hatred and intolerance of other religions. Sáňka was acquitted last September on the grounds that promotion of an ideology is not a crime.
Presiding Judge Vladimír Hermann said the court had dealt with the basic question of whether Salafism is an ideology or a movement. The verdict to acquit arrived at the conclusion that Salafism is an ideology and the book, therefore, was not promoting a movement.
In 2014 a scandal erupted after police raided Muslim centers in Prague in relation to the case. Sáňka was subsequently charged with the crime of establishing, supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms.
Police alleged he had committed that crime by arranging for the translation, publication and distribution of the book. Sáňka has pleaded innocence all along and considers the charges to have been trumped-up against him.
Czech Police raided buildings belonging to the Center of Muslim Communities in the Czech Republic, the Muslim Community of Prague, and the Islamic Foundation, both in the Černý Most neighborhood and near Wenceslas Square in the center of Prague. The 2014 raid was conducted during Friday prayers, which are of particular significance to Muslims.
Many participants in the prayer service, including foreign diplomats, complained about the raid. Their complaints included the fact that police forced worshipers to lie face down on the ground, and eyewitness testimonies stated that the officers aimed weapons at them as well.
The Czech Interior Ministry found the raid to have been in order. The courts subsequently refused to hear a lawsuit from the Center of Muslim Communities claiming the raid had violated their human rights by disrupting their religious worship.
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