Czech expert testifies that activists' sign was anti-Jewish incitement
In Jihlava yesterday the trial opened in the case of the chair of the ultra-right National Democracy (ND) party, Adam B. Bartoš and his former vice-chair, Ladislav Zemánek. The indictment was read and the accused gave testimony.
The two men are charged with defamation of a nation and incitement to hatred. According to the state prosecutor, they left an anti-Jewish text at a memorial to the
late 19th-century murder victim Anežka Hrůzová in the town of Polná in the Jihlava district.
Both Bartoš and Zemánek reject the charges. Judge Tereza Jedličková adjourned the trial until 20 October, when she will announce the verdict.
The accused left a sign at the memorial to the young woman, whose murder sparked anti-Jewish sentiment, that said the following: "Her death brought the Czech nation together and and urgently showed it the necessity of solving the Jewish question. To this day the Jewish question has not yet been satisfactorily resolved."
Michal Doležel, a local councilor representing the "Live in Brno" (Žít Brno) political movement, filed a criminal report over the sign, and police concluded that it constituted incitement to hatred of Jewish people. Judge Tereza Jedličková did not originally hold a hearing but directly sentenced both men in March of this year to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
Both appealed, which is why a trial is now taking place. "We decidedly did not defame the Jewish nation and did not call for hatred," the defendants stated.
Zemánek said in his defense that he believes the phrase "Jewish question" is a neutral one, asserting that it is also used by Jewish representatives to refer to the issue of relationships between Jewish people and the members of other nations. Bartoš said he and his vice-chair behaved reverently at the gravesite, that they believe the text on the current information plaque about Anežka Hrůzová is misleading and one-sided, and that they placed their own interpretation of the significance of the site there as a political statement.
Zemánek also admitted that it had been inappropriate to make their statement in Polná, as it is connected with the so-called Hilsner Affair. Expert witness Josef Zouhar testified that "I don't know whether a felony has been committed, but I do assert that what they did in Polná is socially reprehensible and is a recipe for fomenting anti-Jewish sentiment."
State Prosecutor Ivo Novák, in his closing speech, referred to the expert's conclusion and said the defendants' actions met the definition of a felony. Given that the defendants have clean criminal records, he told the court he considers the original sentence to be adequate.
Novák also said that in Zemánek's case he believed it might be possible to relieve him of the obligation to serve the sentence. Defense attorney Jan Vytiska said no crime had been committed and sought an acquittal for both defendants.
Bartoš said he believes the case is politically motivated because the criminal report was filed by somebody whom he considers a political competitor. The phrase "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" was used by the Nazis as part of their justification for perpetrating the Holocaust against Jewish people.
Anežka Hrůzová died a violent death in 1899. A Jewish man, Leopld Hilsner, was charged and then convicted of the crime.
Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who went on to become the first President of Czechoslovakia, fought against the wave of antisemitism that welled up in response to the conviction of Hilsner, which became known as the Hilsner Affair. Among other efforts, Masaryk did his best to refute the presumption that Hrůzová had been the victim of ritual murder.
In addition to this case, Bartoš also faces three other charges of crimes against humanity. According to police, the ND chair has committed those crimes through the content of a book and other writings that he has published, as well as through his speeches.
Detectives say he intentionally incited hatred against immigrants and Jewish people through those writings. The ND party won 0.15 % of the vote during the recent regional elections.
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