Czech court overturns suspended sentences for banner reading "Europe, Rise Up!"
Yesterday the Municipal Court in Brno acquitted three supporters of the radical Workers' Youth (Dělnická mládež - DM) group of charges of promoting extremism. The three had originally been given suspended sentences for carrying a banner at the head of last year's 1 May demonstration reading "Europe, Rise up!" (Evropo povstaň!) The slogan was said to have been a Nazi reference. Today the trio told the court they had not intended to break any laws, and the court came to the conclusion that they had not crossed the line.
The banner reading "Evropo povstaň!" was carried by six people. Last year the court sentenced all of them to one year in prison, suspended for anywhere between two and 4.5 years. The court evaluated the evidence and ruled on the case without bringing it to trial.
"If it had been a bad banner, the police would probably have confiscated it along with the other people they detained. No one ever told us it was a problem then, but now they are dragging us around the courts. I carried the banner, but I didn't see what it said. The idea of Nazism is not bad in its essence," one of the previously convicted defendants told the court today.
The original sentences were for supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. Among the defendants who were acquitted today is the chair of the DM, Erik Lamprecht. The court justified its original verdict by referring to an expert affidavit which stated that the slogan "Europe, Rise Up!" was a reference to a well-known Nazi slogan from the time of the Second World War, "Germany, Rise Up!"
Three of the six defendants appealed the verdict. An appeals trial was held for them which has now overturned their three sentences. The trio claimed they did not want to break the law, that they had carried the banner at other demonstrations and never had a problem with it before, and that police had seen them carry the banner last May in Brno but never warned them it might be illegal. The court upheld their arguments today, saying they had evidently "reached the limits of committing a crime without crossing the line".
In one and the same case, therefore, there now exist two contradictory verdicts. Three people have been given suspended sentences for carrying the banner, while the other three, who committed the exact same behavior but fought to have their innocence recognized, have now been completely acquitted.
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