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March 29, 2020
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Czech Interior Ministry: Hate speech increased in intensity last year

24.2.2020 8:04
A woman with her collection of Nazi swastikas around her neck on 25 April 2019 during a demonstration on Wenceslas Square in Prague by the populist-xenophobic
A woman with her collection of Nazi swastikas around her neck on 25 April 2019 during a demonstration on Wenceslas Square in Prague by the populist-xenophobic "Freedom and Direct Democracy Movement of Tomio Okamura" (SPD) that featured speeches by Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini and Geert Wilders as well as a concert by a neo-Nazi band. (PHOTO: Video by REFLEX, Collage by Romea.cz)

In the Czech Republic, during the second half of 2019, the intensity of hate speech increased. Several neo-Nazi activists also renewed their activities.

Anarchists and communists, on the other hand, are undergoing a period of stagnation and not managing to grab the public's attention. These are the findings of the report on extremism for the last six months of 2019 that has been published by the Interior Ministry.

Extreme left and right have common subject matter

According to the report, while society continued to be divided by traditional themes, new topics also emerged. The report mentions, for example, the case around the statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague 6.

In September the Prague 6 municipal department decided that the Konev memorial will be replaced by a general one to the liberation of Prague at the end of World War II. Several demonstrations took place at the existing statue during the second half of last year.

According to the report, the controversy over this decision has shown that people who were formerly ideological opponents may in some cases find common cause. Dogmatic communists, members of "militias", representatives of media outlets spreading disinformation, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim activists, as well as former neo-Nazis, all demonstrated together against the removal of Konev's statue.

"There were also paradoxical situations where, for example, the protest for the preservation of the statue of the Soviet commander was accompanied by the music of former neo-Nazi Tomáš 'Orel' Hnídek," the report says. According to the report, after years of stagnation, the neo-Nazi movement has resumed its activities on the right-wing scene.

This has mainly been caused by old activists resigning from traditional right-wing extremist parties. The most active entity during the second half of last year was the "National and Social Front", which held an international meeting of right-wing extremists in Hořice at the end of August.

Extremists from Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Sweden, Russia and Ukraine came to that event. As for the Czech Republic's own Workers Social Justice Party (DSSS), according to the report it continues to undergo a period of decline.

The document reports that while "militias" in the Czech Republic attracted dozens of people of retirement and pre-retirement age, they did not actually carry out any activities. Their supporters just protested against a bill prepared by the Interior Ministry to prohibit and punish the formation of extra-military or paramilitary armed groups such as "militias" or "territorial armies".

"The idea was frequently expressed that the Interior Ministry is deliberately oppressing 'patriotic' forces to facilitate the 'Islamization' of the Czech Republic," states the report, adding that the "Provincial Militia" (Zemská domobrana) group nevertheless ended its activities of its own accord by the end of the year. During that same time period the fragmented anarchist movement was placing its bets on attracting followers through the subject of ecology, the report says.

After the Klinika squat in Prague was evacuated, squatter activities temporarily eased up, and instead solidarity actions were held to support anarchists who had been imprisoned or prosecuted. Causes related to memorials and monuments resonated among dogmatic communists.

Hateful media

Media outlets spreading hateful prejudices intensified their use of anti-migrant subject matter. They also focused on the Konev Memorial.

In August, when the Prague Pride parade of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals took place in Prague, these media outlets also mentioned the alleged threat to Czech society posed by what they called "homosexualism". The report points out that for many extremists, the so-called alternative media has become the only source of information they consider valid.

"Right-wing extremist and other hateful politicians and activists appreciate [these outlets'] activities and are willing to use the media space they offer. The content of the alternative media and the official PR products of hateful political entities overlap," the report adds.

In the chapter on religiously-motivated extremism, the report mentions the trial of Dominik Kobulnický, a young man originally from Slovakia who is facing charges of preparing a terrorist attack. A panel of judges at the Municipal Court in Prague punished him in November with a 6.5 year prison sentence for posing a general menace.

Both Kobulnický and the prosecutor are considering appeals. The report also highlights the case of former Prague imam Samer Shehadeh, who is charged along with his brother and his fiancée with participating in a terrorist group and financing terrorism.

The Municipal Court in Prague plans to deliver its verdict in that case on 28 February 2020. The report also found that the spectrum of people against whom insults and threats are being made has expanded.

In addition to members of ethnic, national or religious minorities, insults and threats are also being targeted against human rights activists, NGOs and politicians per se. According to the report, threats against some journalists dealing with the subjects of racism and xenophobia are also alarming.

Police recorded fewer extremist felonies last year

Last year police recorded 170 crimes with an extremist context, nine less than in 2018, and 96 of them have already been solved. Most frequently - in 61 of the cases - police reported that the crimes involved supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms, or showing sympathy for such a movement, or denying, questioning, endorsing or justifying genocide.

Such cases were then followed by the crime of incitement to hatred of a group, for which police reported 41 cases last year, and violence against a group or its individual members, for which 27 such cases were registered. Police reported five cases involved the crime of deliberate bodily harm motivated by extremism, three of which were solved.

Detectives recorded a total of 122 people prosecuted for such crimes last year, down by 14 year-on-year. Most frequently, again, the prosecutions were about promoting and supporting extremist movements.

The report points out that the total number of persons prosecuted does not represent a one-to-one correlation with the crimes committed, because the accused could have committed crimes in, for example, more than one region, and in that case the same individual would be counted more than once. Police officers recorded the most crimes perpetrated with an extremist subtext in Prague, where there were 43 last year, eight less than in 2018.

After Prague the Ústecký Region came in second with 24 crimes, compared to 29 in 2018. The highest numbers of persons prosecuted for such crimes were either in Prague or the Ústecký Region.

Last year there were 157 events organized or attended by politically-motivated extremists nationwide. "A total of 128 [events] were linked to the left-wing extremist spectrum and 29 to the right-wing extremists," the report said.

ČTK, fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Extremism, Fascism, Islamismus, Ministerstvo vnitra



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