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Czech state prosecutor says gallows at demonstration was illegal

1.12.2015 17:11
Milan Chovanec, Czech Interior Minister, on an anti-immigrant demonstration held in Prague in 2015:
Milan Chovanec, Czech Interior Minister, on an anti-immigrant demonstration held in Prague in 2015: "Gallows have no place in a democracy, the police, as an organ of a democratic state, must be aware of that." (Collage: Romea.cz)

Vladimír Heřman's decision to bring a homemade gallows inscribed with "for treason" to a July demonstration against Islam in Prague will apparently result in a trial. The state prosecutor has assessed his actions as illegal and he will most probably be prosecuted.

Czech Police President Tomáš Tuhý informed Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) of the assessment in mid-November, news server Aktuálně.cz reported. "If the gallows was accompanied by hate speech or slogans then it was de facto a criminal act," declared Chovanec.

In July Chovanec tweeted the following response to the demonstration:  "The conclusion of the Prague Police audit legitimizes gallows at demonstrations. I'm not going to put up with that!"

A court decision in the case of 45-year-old Heřman could influence similar initiatives. Chovanec said it would be the first verdict to state whether marching through the streets carrying a gallows is a crime or not.

It is possible that the result of that verdict would be followed by other courts or by police officers and prosecutors when considering whether to begin prosecutions. "I will be very curious about the outcome," Chovanec told Aktuálně.cz.

Prague Police did not want to initially confirm whether Heřman will be prosecuted. "I am not authorized to comment on whether a specific individual will be prosecuted or not," spokesperson Tomáš Hulan said.

Aktuálně.cz reported that the spokesperson also would not be drawn on what specific criminal charges would be at issue, such as that of inciting hatred against a particular group. In July the Czech Interior Ministry published a written opinion stating that the law had been broken in this case and listing several specific statutes involved.

At the time the minister said it was necessary to immediately make it clear from the beginning that the state would not tolerate such behavior:  "Today it's a gallows, tomorrow it will eggs, then rocks or bricks, and then we might see people shooting at each other during these displays." The gallows carried by the demonstrators were mock-ups.

Police officers intervened at the July demonstration against activists who sat on the sidewalk in an attempt to block those opposed to immigrants from marching on the Office of the Government. Three people ended up at a police station because of their civil disobedience.

A fourth person was arrested for allegedly assaulting police officers intervening against the other activists who were detained. "We are at the beginning of what is probably a new leadership style of exercising speech by some operators wishing to exploit some of the thorny issues that scare the citizens of the Czech Republic so as to politically profit from them. We are clearly telling them that we simply will not allow this, it has no place in a democracy and we will do all we can to clearly demonstrate a proactive approach to this from the beginning," Chovanec said in July.

Displays of hatred during the summer were also condemned by Czech Prime Minister Svoboda:  "It is unacceptable for anyone to exploit freedom of speech to disseminate hatred or threaten their ideological opponents with death. That is not what freedom of assembly and speech are for. I think it is very important for the police and state prosecutor to pay attention to upholding the law during such assemblies. I want to unequivocally reject the dissemination of any hatred, however it is motivated, against any group." 

jal, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Bezpečnost, Demonstrace, Exkluze, Islamofobie



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