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August 8, 2022



Czech lower courts consider online comment calling for asylum-seekers to be set on fire a misdemeanor, Supreme Court to rule now

31.10.2018 10:23

Supreme State Prosecutor Pavel Zeman is insisting that the woman who posted on Facebook that a bus carrying asylum-seekers be set on fire should be punished by the courts for having committed a felony. The lower courts in Plzeň have sent the case to the local authority for handling as a misdemeanor.

According to Zeman, the remarks obviously meet the definition of felony incitement to hatred of a group. He has therefore appealed to the Czech Supreme Court and the Czech News Agency has seen the content of that appeal.

In February the woman posted the comments on Facebook in response to a news item including video footage about asylum-seeking families, found inside of container trucks among the goods being transported, who were subsequently put on buses. "Now we're going to pay for them... why didn't they just set those buses on fire instead?" she posted before continuing to defend the disgust she feels toward migrants in the online discussion.

"It is difficult to imagine a clearer demonstration of hatred than expressing the desire for the brutal physical destruction of a specifically-described group of individuals," the Supreme Prosecutor wrote in his appeal. Such expressions, according to him, are not protected in a democratic society under freedom of speech because they absolutely degrade the human dignity of the group of people discussed.

In May the Plzeň-město District Court sent the case to the misdemeanor commission of the Office of the Plzeň 3 Municipal Department. The court said the societal noxiousness of the woman's action was low, referring to the fact that the woman had no criminal record and is allegedly not associated with the extremist environment.

A complaint over that decision from the State Prosecutor was rejected by the Regional Court in Plzeň, according to whom the woman had not urged anybody directly to set the buses on fire. The Regional Court said that demonstrating hatred is not the same thing as inciting it.

The Supreme State Prosecutor disagrees with the lower courts' opinions. He referenced the exceptional intensity of the hatred in the Facebook commentary.

"Not every demonstration of hatred toward a group of persons must necessarily incite hatred, but hatred of the intensity that the accused displayed, in which she wished the migrants would be set on fire, in and of itself incites others to hatred," the prosecutor's appeal reads. He also said it would only be possible not to hold the accused criminally liable if her remarks had been made under absolutely exceptional circumstances.

The woman's commentary, according to the prosecutor, did not show any signs of deserving extraordinary treatment. "There is nothing to indicate that the legislators may have wanted to exclude cases from prosecution in the criminal courts that involve a perpetrator inciting the burning of migrants on buses through online social networks," his appeal reads.

brf, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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