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Czech Republic: Romani police assistants exonerated

Litvínov/Most, 22.8.2011 20:34, (ROMEA)
ilustrační foto

The controversy over two Romani police assistants in the Czech town of Litvínov has come to an unequivocal end: Neither of the men has done anything illegal. At the start of the controversy, Mayor Daniel Volák (Civic Democrats - ODS) and Vice-Mayor Martin Klika (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) did their best to convince the public otherwise.

Miroslav Kováč, the only police assistant charged in the case, has had all felony and misdemeanor charges dropped against him. On the other hand, Petr Křižanovič, the chair of the Workers' Social Justice Party (DSSS) cell in Litvínov, has been given a suspended sentence for wearing a cap with the logo of the dissolved Workers' Party (Dělnická strana - DS) on it. Kováč removed the cap from Křižanovič's head during their encounter.

The town hall in Most has informed Miroslav Kováč that the misdemeanor proceeding against him has been halted because there is no proof he committed an offense. "The administrative body evaluated the pieces of evidence individually and as a whole and came to the conclusion that on the basis of the testimonies provided it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt that Miroslav Kováč committed the offense with which he was charged. The witness Křižanovič did not want to give a statement about the matter, saying he could not remember the details and that it had been a misunderstanding," the misdemeanor commission writes in its explanation as to why the proceeding has been halted.

The incident occurred in early November 2010, when municipal police assistants stopped Petr Křižanovič, chair of the Litvínov DSSS cell, on the street because he was wearing a cap with the logo of the Workers' Party, a neo-Nazi party dissolved by the Czech Supreme Administrative Court. The assistants summoned municipal police and called on Křižanovič to wait for them to arrive, but he refused to communicate with the assistants, saying he wasn't going to let any "Gypsies" bother him on his way home from work.

The police assistants warned Křižanovič that local people might understand his cap as a provocation and attack him. They also told him they believed promotion of the Workers' Party was a violation of the law. Křižanovič began to claim he would call Mayor Volák and have him contact Vice Mayor Klika about the fact that the police assistants were discriminating against him. When Křižanovič started to leave, Miroslav Kováč removed the cap from his head. No other conflict took place. Kováč had shown Křižanovič his service badge, and all of the police assistants (including a third who arrived during the incident) were properly identifiable by their vests.The response of the then-leadership of the Litvínov town hall seemed to show that Křižanovič really did enjoy the protection he had threatened Kováč with.

Mayor Daniel Volák and Vice-Mayor Martin Klika immediately attacked the police assistants over the incident. Both have advanced in their careers since.

Klika wrote the following in an official press release: "The town leadership intends to punish the illegal behavior committed today by the civilian employees of the Litvínov Municipal Police. Employees of the preventive Úsvit ['Dawn'] program committed the illegal acts during an incident involving a man at Janov [housing estate]. We cannot tolerate illegal behavior on the part of employees of the municipal police. We will take immediate steps with respect to these personnel." Mayor Volák immediately announced the town would no longer request funding for the police assistants and would not extend their contracts, which were set to expire.

"Messrs Klika and Volák, in my opinion, have committed the crime of abusing the powers of a public official, because from the start they presumed we were all guilty (although I was the only one charged). I am curious to see what their current employers will do once I file charges against them, whether they will be transferred to other workplaces or whether no one will bother. This is direct evidence of what is wrong in this society. A double standard applies here - there is one standard for majority-society people, while Romani people are solely subjected to the prejudice against them," Miroslav Kováč told news server Romea.cz.

Volák is currently first Deputy Minister at the Czech Justice Ministry, while Klika is the director of the Municipal Police of Litvínov. News server Romea.cz contacted them both for comment, but neither one has responded to our questions yet.

The only person who did commit illegal behavior was Petr Křižanovič, Volák and Klika's protégé, an ultra-right extremist who is chair of the Litvínov cell of the DSSS, the successor to the neo-Nazi Workers' Party (DS). Křižanovič was recently given a six-month suspended sentence, postponed for one year, for committing the crime of supporting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms.

Even though Litvínov filed felony charges against the police assistants, police dropped those charges and handled the entire matter as a misdemeanor - and only in Miroslav Kováč's case. Kováč refused to be intimidated and filed his own felony criminal charges against Křižanovič. The court subsequently upheld his claim that by wearing the cap with the DS logo, Křižanovič had broken the law because he was promoting Nazism/neo-Nazism through promoting the court-dissolved Workers' Party.

From the very beginning, Czech media reporting of this case was poor. All media outlets, without exception, reiterated a Czech Press Agency report on the incident without augmenting it or verifying it in any way. The reports lacked any statements by the Romani police assistants involved because the Czech Press Agency simply never asked them any questions and only presented the opinions of the representatives of the Litvínov town hall. The media reports were therefore completely one-sided and did not even discuss all of the details that actually took place during what was termed a "clash", even though the editors of dailies, radio stations and television channels have staff in every region of the country, including North Bohemia.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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