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Czech soldier wearing SS symbols may have deserted the French Foreign Legion

Prague, 15.11.2009 21:40, (ROMEA)

One of the Czech soldiers who wore an SS unit symbol on his helmet in Afghanistan may be a deserter from the French Foreign Legion. Moreover, he may have worn the Nazi symbols during his previous service in Kosovo. Speaking on Czech Television today, Czech Deputy Defense Minister Jan Fulík did not directly confirm the allegations about Hynek Matonoha, but said investigations so far indicate the reports are probable. Investigations are ongoing.

"Indications are that is actually the case,” Fulík said, adding that the ministry will complete its investigation within 14 days. “Then we plan to make a clear decision on the future of these high-ranking officers.”

Matonoha served in the Rapid Reaction Brigade in the Afghan province of Logar. While on duty he wore the symbol of the SS Dirlewanger brigade on his helmet. The media has also reported allegations that he falsified his high school diploma.

Nazi symbols were similarly used in Logar by another Czech solder, Jan Čermák. Czech Defense Minister Martin Barták discharged both from service over the incident. He has also suspended their commanders, Petr Procházka and General Jiří Halaška, from active duty until the case is fully investigated.

Should it be confirmed that Matonoha wore Nazi symbols during his previous tour of duty in Kosovo, it would be a very serious problem, Fulík admitted today. Moreover, should the Czech Army have been unaware that he deserted the French Foreign Legion, it would be even worse.

The ministry and the Army command are emphasizing that the case is one of individual, personal failure. They do not want it to cast a shadow on the Army as a whole.

Nevertheless, Fulík admitted today that the Czech Defense Ministry is aware of systemic problems which might lead to the enlistment of problematic soldiers. "The three soldiers recently discharged enlisted in 2001 and 2002. At that time a system was in place that provided a certain degree of filtration, but today we can see it was not sufficient,” he said.

At the start of last week, Lukáš Sedláček also had to leave the military after confessing to co-founding and helping to train the extremist organization White Justice. This group was allegedly preparing terrorist attacks and planning the kidnappings of police officers and “highly positioned Jews”.

The Army has faced other scandals recently. Today a soldier suspected of producing and distributing drugs was arrested by members of the Military Police and the Czech Police. Last Thursday, the Army released information on the case of four Czech soldiers who allegedly smoked marijuana or hashish while on duty in Kosovo during the second half of October. Yet another case from a KFOR unit was also reported last Thursday by the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes. The paper said Czech soldiers were disciplined for being drunk and disorderly in September.

Police officers also arrested three employees of the Czech Defense Ministry in Prague last Thursday on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography. Fulík said on Czech Television today that the employees were not only civilians. "Among them there is most probably one who is on active duty, a professional solider,” he said.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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