Czech Internet spreads lies and xenophobia after brawl in Brno, Interior Ministry responds
Detectives in Brno, Czech Republic have charged three foreign nationals on suspicion of assaulting two men, one from Armenia and one from the Czech Republic, in the early morning hours of Saturday on Běhounská Street. The alleged main instigator of the incident has also been charged with felony battery, making dangerous threats and rioting, for which he could be imprisoned for up to 10 years if convicted, while the others were charged with rioting, which carries a maximum sentence of two years, according to a press release issued by the spokesperson for the South Moravian Regional Police, Andrea Cejnková.
Extremists in the Czech Repulbic are exploiting the incident to disseminate hatred against foreign nationals and refugees. The Czech News Agency has reported that the alleged instigator is originally from North Africa.
Police say the men involved have all been living in the Czech Republic for quite some time and speak Czech, but they refused to comment further on the identities of the accused. "By law we are not allowed to report on suspects' nationalities or identify them any further. That information is not the subject of the case. What is at issue is what happened, what they did, and on what grounds the charges have been communicated to them," Cejnková told the media.
A Brno-based movement calling itself "Decent People" ("Slušní lidé") whose rhetoric is strongly anti-immigrant and generally very confrontational toward the current leadership in Brno and towards all who do not share their opinions has begun to disseminate the disinformation that the alleged attackers were asylum-seekers. Their disinformation has been picked up by the pro-Kremlin disinformation websites working in the Czech language such as AC24.cz, which according to the Czech Interior Ministry disseminates disinformation and lies.
One of the first such websites to publish the disinformation was the Středoevropan ("Central European") server, run by a former leader of the neo-Nazi movement in the Czech Republic, Filip Vávra. "In connection with the incident on Běhounská Street in Brno we must thoroughly object to its being linked with any clients of the Interior Ministry's Refugee Facilities Administration. Those involved in that incident are not asylum-seekers accommodated in any asylum facility of the Interior Ministry's Refugee Facilities Administration (SUZ MV)," said Jan Piroch of the SUZ MV.
The Czech Interior Ministry has also refuted the reports being disseminated by the disinformation websites. "None of the assailants is a client of a refugee facility as is being claimed by AC24.cz and 'Decent People', i.e., they are not asylum-seekers. One perpetrator had supplementary protection status which has been in the process of being withdrawn since the spring," the ministry tweeted through its Centre Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats.
According to the police officers who answered the emergency call, the entire incident first involved a verbal exchange and then a physical scuffle. The victims were 31 and 32 years old.
"They have suffered puncture wounds. Emergency medical responders took them both to hospital," Cejnková said.
According to their description, the officers found the four suspects on Moravské náměstí and the three accused are between 24 and 31 years old. "Two men, one aged 24 and one aged 30 are charged with the offense of hooliganism and could face up to two years in prison. The main instigator is a 31-year-old man who now faces charges of felony battery, making dangerous threats and rioting. He could face up to 10 years behind bars for that behavior," the police spokesperson said.
One of the victims is, paradoxically, also a foreign national, according to an anti-foreigner video being disseminated by the extremists. Hamo Aperjan is a boxer originally from Armenia who came to the Czech Republic in 2007 when his father arranged a visa for him.
The victim's father has lived in the Czech Republic since 2003. As a reaction to the description of the incident that is being disseminated by the "Decent People" movement, there is also another version of the entire conflict making the rounds of the Czech Internet.
According to that version, the brawl was caused by a dispute over a girl and the instigator of the conflict was one of those who was subsequently injured. Police are currently still investigating how the entire conflict happened.
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