Day 2 of the Workers’ Party trial: Chair admits neo-Nazi was active in the party
Tomáš Sokol, the prosecuting attorney in the Workers’ Party trial, said yesterday in court that the party shares “personnel” with the radical Czech neo-Nazi association National Resistance. Sokol, who is representing the Czech Government, made the assertion at the start of the second day of the Supreme Administrative Court’s proceedings on the government’s motion to dissolve the party. Party chair Tomáš Vandas denies the alleged connections, saying the party has 950 members and the leadership cannot know the precise biographies and activities of each and every one of them.
"Can the government show who leads National Resistance, what its structure and membership base are? Can the government show a contract proving the connections between the party and National Resistance? I have never seen any such proof, these are just empty proclamations,” Vandas said.
Sokol admitted that National Resistance does not exist as a legal entity in a form that can be clearly understood. "However, it does objectively exist as a certain form of a civic group,” he said. The government documented what National Resistance’s actual activity is through the testimony of an expert witness and a report from the police’s Organized Crime Detection Unit.
The government says the interconnectedness of the Workers’ Party and National Resistance is evident, for example, from their participation in each other’s public events and from the detailed references to the party’s activities on the web server Odpor.org, which endorses National Resistance. The Workers’ Youth, which is officially tied to the party, has also registered a periodical with the Czech Culture Ministry entitled “National Resistance”. "Are those two words used in that order banned?" Vandas asked.
The party allegedly also collaborates with the Autonomous Nationalists, National Corporativism and Resistance Woman Unity, the women’s analog to National Resistance. As far as the Autonomous Nationalists are concerned, Vandas said he does not know their representatives and has nothing to do with them, but admitted to speaking at their events. "These were events we felt a kinship with, for example, the tribute to St Václav and support for Serbia against the breakaway of Kosovo,” Vandas said. He characterized his attendance at these events as a kind of “dark past”, which he said “everyone has”.
Further evidence of the links between the Workers’ Party and neo-Nazi organizations is provided, for example, by the management of concerts under the National Resistance rubric and materials about such concerts found by police when they searched the home of suspected neo-Nazi Tomáš Kebza. Under direct, repeated questioning, Vandas admitted Kebza once was a Workers’ Party member, the very first time he has admitted a neo-Nazi has been active in the party ranks. "He was a member, but that was at least two years ago,” Vandas defended himself.
Yesterday the court also focused on the Workers’ Youth, the party’s youth organization. Its program includes statements such as “our country belongs to us alone, not to immigrants and people of different nationalities.” Elsewhere the program states that it sees faith in National Socialism as "the central ideal driving the existence and actions of the nation". The government says the group is programmatically espousing the legacy of Adolf Hitler through such statements. Moreover, on the party program that particular point is number 18, a code among neo-Nazis that symbolizes Hitler’s initials.
Martin Zbela, head of the Workers’ Youth, testified before the court yesterday as well. He refused to answer any questions regarding its program. The Czech Interior Ministry is said to have already called on the Workers’ Youth to give an explanation for its program and has established a February deadline for them to file their response. “We will make use of that deadline,” Zbela said.
In the afternoon the court focused on the past of various Workers’ Party candidates, members and officials. For example, the government demonstrated that candidates Jiří Švehlík, Patrik Vondrák, Simona Skoumalová, Mirko Musil, Ladislav Butz and Milan Hroch all participated in public events, concerts and marches by neo-Nazi associations in the Czech Republic and abroad. Documents submitted by the government show that other people in the party’s “Protection Corps” are also said to have passed through neo-Nazi circles, for example, Tomáš Kebza, Jiří Tůma, Lukáš Rod, Jan Strnad and Petr Knor.
Some of these people have criminal pasts. They have been either accused of or prosecuted for supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms, and some have even physically assaulted members of the Roma minority.
Dozens of minutes of the proceedings were spent in projecting photographic evidence in which individuals were seen at events convened by National Resistance and other groups. Some of the snapshots captured their tattoos of Nazi symbols, while others showed them giving the Hitler salute. The evidence submitted included pictures from a National Resistance costume party.
Sokol referred to the criminal pasts of some of the Workers’ Party members and promoters. "It is unthinkable that any other political party would have so many activists, members and officials who have been so often prosecuted for so many crimes. This is no coincidence. The Workers’ Party has been permanently connected over the long term with these extremist, neo-fascist entities,” Sokol said. Vandas submitted the clean criminal records of several members of the party presidium to the court and claimed he could not be expected to have an overview of the records of rank and file members or promoters. "I do not screen anyone,” Vandas said.
Vandas himself currently faces prosecution over the content of one of his public speeches. He also said the former chair of the party’s organization in Most, Jiří Löschner, who has been convicted of various crimes, is no longer in that post.
At the close of the proceedings the court began to address the public events with which the Workers’ Party has somehow been involved. The most time was spent on the 1 May 2008 gathering in Prague, at which Steffen Pohl, a representative of the Free Resistance Dortmund group in Germany, gave a speech. Speaking in English, Pohl is alleged to have supported Hitler’s ideology. For example, he said that in Germany 75 years ago (i.e., at the moment of Hitler’s rise to power), the country “liberated itself” from the forces of international financial capital.
Vandas, who also gave a speech at the event, which was convened by the Workers’ Party, distanced himself from that particular statement of Pohl’s yesterday. He said he had not asked Pohl to come to the event and had not seen him since. However, he supported some of Pohl’s other statements. "I stand by those words about idlers and parasites, I don’t see anything wrong with them," Vandas said.
Court officials have finally succeeded in delivering a subpoena to Jiří Šlégr, whom the court has been attempting to summon as a witness. Šlégr was not available at his permanent residence and the court had not been able to deliver the summons to him, but Romea.cz discovered that Šlégr was in fact present in front of the courthouse on the first day of the trial. He can be seen posing in photographs with Vandas, who has refused to give the court Šlégr’s current address. Supreme Administrative Court spokesperson František Emmert confirmed to Romea.cz that the subpoena was delivered to Šlégr yesterday morning directly at the courthouse.
The hearing continues today. Judges will focus once again on the party’s public events and will depose the first witnesses. The hearing will continue tomorrow as well. It is not clear whether the court will issue a verdict tomorrow or whether it will postpone its announcement until later.
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