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Czech Police raid mosque, charge man with disseminating racism

Prague, 29.4.2014 0:03, (ROMEA)
The website of the Islamic Foundation in Prague (PHOTO:  Romea.cz)
The website of the Islamic Foundation in Prague (PHOTO: Romea.cz)

On 25 April police officers raided two buildings of the Islamic Foundation (Islámská nadace - IN) in Prague, one near Wenceslas Square and one near the Černý Most metro station, that are used by members of the Muslim community as gathering places. The raid was performed on the suspicion that the foundation was publishing and distributing books that disseminate anti-Semitism, racism, violence against so-called inferior races, and xenophobia.  

Pavel Hanták, spokesperson for the Organized Crime Detection Unit (Útvar pro odhalování organizovaného zločinu - ÚOOZ) informed the Czech News Agency of the raid. Police refused to say how many people they arrested. 

Czech media outlets estimated the number of those arrested as between 10 and 20. The raid in the center of Prague lasted 4.5 hours.

Some of those directly involved, including Indonesian diplomats, have complained against the police procedure. Hanták said on 25 April that detectives had begun criminal investigation proceedings against a specific suspect. 

The raid consisted of arresting the suspect and performing searches of homes and other spaces, including mosques, where larger numbers of people regularly gather. Officers reportedly were able to raid the mosques because of a book called Bases of the Tauhid - The Islamic Conception of God (in Czech, Základy tauhídu-Islámský koncept Boha).  

Lukáš Lhotan, a former Muslim who has since left the faith, told the Czech News Agency on 25 April that he had recently filed a criminal report over the book. Lhotan believes the book, which was published by the Central Office of Muslim Communities in the Czech Republic and the Islamic Foundation, includes extreme Muslim opinions; the Czech News Agency was unable to reach the foundation for comment.

A Czech News Agency reporter said the raid involved officers first taking five handcuffed men away from the Islamic Foundation in the center of Prague in a black van before bringing other detainees out of the building. It is not clear whether they were detained because police suspected them of criminal behavior or because they were unable to identify themselves.  

Those in the mosques were predominantly foreigners. According to those involved in the raid in the center of Prague, officers interrupted the main Friday prayers which are of special meaning to Muslims, who gather for them in mosques. 

Eyewitnesses said around 100 people were inside the central mosque. "The police detained us and asked us for our identification. They kept telling us to keep our heads down," a man who was released from the mosque told journalists afterward.  

One of those inside the mosque was the First Secretary of the Indonesian Embassy, Wahono Yuliano, who was attending prayer with other embassy employees. He said armed officers entered the mosque and told everyone to remain on the ground. 

"Some people wanted to discuss it with them, but they didn't want to discuss anything," Yuliano said. Other eyewitnesses said that first anyone who was ill was allowed to leave the mosque, then anyone who was accompanying children, and then diplomats.

Everyone else remained inside. Yuliano said the representatives of the embassy were not released until an hour and a half later, even though they wanted to show police their diplomatic credentials immediately. 

Police reportedly rejected that request. "We are demanding that the Czech authorities respect the embassy, its diplomats, and those accompanying them," a staffer of the Indonesian Consulate who was waiting for her colleagues in front of the mosque told journalists.

The Indonesian Embassy is preparing to file a complaint about the raid with the Czech Foreign Ministry. Other people were released from the mosque in a rather exasperated frame of mind, most of whom did not understand the raid and did not know the details of it.

Some of those detained insisted they were tourists on vacation who had just gone there to pray. Many relatives of family members inside the mosque gathered outside it to wait for their loved ones.

One of the first to be released was a father accompanying two young children who were crying. "No one said anything at all to us," he told the press. 

After Friday's raid, police charged a 55-year-old man of Czech nationality on the afternoon of Saturday, 26 April with promoting and supporting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. The man charged is from Prague and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.   

Hanták communicated news of the charges to the Czech News Agency. "The arrested man is suspected of having arranged for the translation and publication of books, the content of which disseminates anti-Semitism, racism, violence against so-called inferior races and xenophobia, and then distributing them in the Czech Republic online through an internet bookstore and selling them to people directly in certain places," he said.  

The suspect was released on his own recognizance. Searches related to the raid reportedly continued until the morning of the 28th.

The Aliens Police have begun deportation proceedings against some of the people detained. One person is suspected of felony obstruction of justice.  

Hanták previously refuted claims published by some Czech media outlets that explosives and weapons were found during the searches. The ÚOOZ also said it has agreed with the state prosecutor not to release the exact title of the book over which a man has been charged, saying they do not want to advertise it.  

The most famous case to date of the Czech Police and the courts taking an interest in the dissemination of a controversial book was the publication of a Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's work Mein Kampf without any accompanying commentary. It was marketed in March 2000 by the Otakar II publishing house, run by Michal Zítko, against whom a lawsuit was filed in November 2000 on allegations that he was promoting and supporting a movement to suppress human rights.   

The courts first put Zítko on probation, but in March 2005 the Supreme Court acquitted him. However, a CZK 60 000 fine assessed by the Prague Municipal Court against retailer Vít Vařák, who sold Zítko's edition online, remained in force. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Extremism, Islám, Praha, Racism



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