Czech man who gave Nazi salute at ultra-nationalist rally gets fine and suspended sentence, appeals
Radek Mansfeld, one of those who attended an event in April organized by the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement, has been given a half-year suspended sentence and a fine of CZK 30 000 [EUR 1164] for giving the Nazi salute on that occasion. The court thereby agreed with the prosecutor's proposal for sentencing.
The decision has yet to take effect and Mansfeld immediately appealed. He claims that by raising his right arm he was not expressing sympathy for neo-Nazis, but calming the situation between the opponents and supporters of the SPD.
The incident transpired at a demonstration "against the dictatorship of the European Union" organized by the "SPD movement of Tomio Okamura" on 25 April on Wenceslas Square in Prague to launch the party's EU elections campaign. Video footage of Mansfeld raising his arm during a performance by the Ortel band appeared on social media shortly after the event.
Police ascertained Mansfeld's identity that same evening. "The defendant was well aware of what neo-Nazism is, of what the Nazi salute is, and of what a Fascist symbol is," Judge Eva Švíglerová of the District Court for Prague 1 said while reading her verdict, adding that she was convinced he gave the Nazi salute because he intended to publicly sympathize with neo-Nazis, as could also be seen from the way he was dressed and the environment in which he committed the act.
The judge also referenced Mansfeld's Facebook profile, which in her view demonstrated that he was "very well familiar" with the issue of neo-Nazism. Photographs from his profile have been publicized by Roman Máca of the Institute for Politics and Society.
One of the photographs shows Mansfeld giving the Nazi salute, while others are of clothing patches reading "Agent of the Kremlin". In one photograph he appears together with Romana Frieselová, who gave the Nazi salute at an anti-Roma demonstration in Dubí and was involved in this year's aggressive protest against the Pride Pride march celebrating the LGBT community.
Mansfeld, who is 34 years old, a native of Kladno, and has a job loading and unloading goods onto trucks, disputes the charges. He told the court that he went to the event because his friends were going.
"I behaved absolutely normally," Mansfeld emphasized during his testimony. "My arm was raised, but with two fingers. I was calming those who were on the other side. They were disrupting the demonstration - they whistled, they were provoking. I didn't want to seem them get killed," he added.
"The claims of the defendant are absolutely tendentious. There was a police barricade between the two groups. The police had the situation absolutely under control, it was not necessary to intervene in any way," Prosecutor Tereza Zelíková told the court.
The prosecutor called CCTV footage of the demonstration crucial evidence that "clearly captures his upright stance with his arm raised". She then added, "Intolerance-based displays should be strongly sanctioned."
Mansfeld rejects the idea that he is a neo-Nazi. "We want order and peace in our homeland. That doesn't mean I have anything against darker-skinned citizens," he said.
Patriotism, in his view, means behaving respectfully toward state symbols. He alleged that those opposed to the SPD had begun whistling during the singing of the national anthem, which bothered him.
When asked by the judge, he described himself as having worn Czech-made camouflage and a green paratrooper beret to the event. "I like it, just like you might like jeans. I also wear it to work. That doesn't mean it's a provocation of some kind," he explained; during his court appearancet he wore black three-quarter-length shorts, military boots, and a cap that he did not remove until the judge ordered him to.
When asked whether he uses alcohol, Mansfeld said "sure, like any normal, classic Czech." He also admitted that he had consumed two beers before coming to the hearing.
Mansfeld also testified that he had consumed beer at the demonstration. His attorney, Martin Korbař, submitted to the judge a solemn declaration signed by Mansfeld's co-workers who are foreign nationals swearing that he is neither a neo-Nazi nor a racist.
"My client behaves fairly toward people of other nationalities," the defense attorney claimed. He also argued that Mansfeld had been holding a cigarette in his extended arm, which means the gesture could not have been a Nazi salute.
Of course, the expert witness on extremism summoned by the court, Josef Zouhar, disagreed with that claim. "The cigarette is not essential, giving the salute while standing at attention is. This is a classic display from the era of Nazi Germany," he testified.
When asked by the court, Mansfeld testified that he has been convicted of two previous felonies but did not provide details. He could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison.
The judge handed down the same punishment previously issued by court order. Mansfeld had objected to the decision, which is why a hearing of the case was held on 12 August.
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