DS trial Day 4: DS linked to Hitler’s legacy, Šlégr and Švehlík refuse to testify
Yesterday, the hearing before the Supreme Administrative Court on the Czech Government’s motion to dissolve the Workers’ Party (Dělnická strana – DS) entered its fourth day. The government presented a great deal of irrefutable evidence on the connection between the party and neo-Nazi groups.
Presiding judge Vojtěch Šimíček began the proceedings by asking whether the government had any other evidence to introduce. Representatives of the government submitted a text to the court of a right-wing speech given in German at a march in Munich in May 2009. Patrik Vondrák, the head of the Prague DS branch, also spoke at the march. "In our view, this documents the fact that the neo-Nazi movement is internationalizing, and within that framework, a highly-placed representative of the Workers’ Party is making speeches,” Czech Interior Ministry lawyer Karel Bačkovský explained to IDNES.cz.
Texts downloaded from the DS website served as a second piece of government evidence. The press department of the party published its “Invitation to Svitavy” on that website, calling for a demonstration against the imprisonment of Vlastimil Pechanec, who was sentenced several years ago to an extraordinary sentence of 17 years in prison for racially motivated murder. DS head Tomáš Vandas denied the party had convened the event. The DS leader evaded responsibility by characterizing the announcement as “just general information that the event is taking place, nothing more.”
According to right-wing extremism expert Michal Mazel, the party is inspired by German National Socialism and the ideology of Adolf Hitler. This can be seen, for example, in their classification of people according to nationality. "In many of their speeches there is a tendency to distinguish among people according to their ethnicity, according to their racial origin, to separate people into ‘us, the good’ and ‘them, the bad’,” testified Mazel. The DS was said to primarily target Roma. Vandas has long denied any connection to Nazism.
Mazel also found Nazi connections in the DS symbols. The party logo, which shows the initials “DS” at the center of a gear wheel, is strikingly reminiscent of the logo of the German Labor Front (DAF), which was a Nazi labor union analog. A similar logo was also used by the Free German Workers’ Party (FAP), which has been dissolved; that party was associated with neo-Nazis, and Mazel testified that its aim was to establish a Fourth Reich.
Vandas responded by submitting photo documentation to the court of other badges in which a gear wheel is used. Most of them were from Czechoslovak industrial enterprises, such as the Královopolská Machine Works. The image was used in a medal given to the winners of a competition to save fuel. DS promoters in the hall laughed as Vandas submitted the evidence. Mazel admitted that the gear wheel is a general labor movement symbol. “The question, however, is whether the Workers’ Party was inspired by the example of Královopolská or by examples from elsewhere," he suggested.
Another symbol reviewed was a drawing of a worker holding a hammer which was used by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Národně socialistická německá dělnická strana - NSDAP) during the presidential elections in 1932, in which Adolf Hitler made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency. The exact same drawing has been used on various DS materials in the past.
Mazel testified that the DS writes about the issue of national interest in almost the exact same way as the press did during the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. "The impression I have received is that there has to be a direct influence at work,” Mazel said. The DS press was said to also evidently embody a kind of worship of political struggle and violence, especially after the conflicts at the Janov housing estate in Litvínov.
Mazel also testified to the party’s connection to the dictatorial principles professed by Hitler, which can be seen in the party’s speeches. "Some of the speeches to the outside world in which the party chair is referred to as the High Commander (of the Protection Corps), along with specific articles in the party press, led me to the conclusion that there is an attempt to apply the dictatorial principle here. However, what actually happens in practice is another matter,” Mazel said.
Vandas has previously labeled any sort of connection with the ideas of Adolf Hitler an “audacious lie”. The party says it has taken the National Socialism of the First Czechoslovak Republic as its model; the politicians they reference include Milada Horáková, who was executed by the communists.
Mazel says the DS is also attempting the kind of political propaganda specific to Hitler’s Germany. "They continuously hammer away at the same topics, impressing on the public the sense that a threat is posed to them by some all-powerful minority,” Mazel said. While the national socialism of the past made use of the Jewish minority, the DS is said to present the Roma in this light. The party’s animosity towards homosexuals, foreigners, liberalism and capitalism was also said to be symptomatic.
Mazel originally submitted an expert evaluation to the court as requested by the government. For procedural reasons, the judges refused to recognize it as an expert report in the proper sense of the term and are handling the document as yet another of the many papers submitted. Mazel is a political scientist, lawyer and historian and has worked for the Czech Interior Ministry in the past. The court deposed him as a witness.
One judge noticed that Mazel is not a registered court expert and that he had prepared the evaluation under the rubric of the Institute for Criminology and Forensic Disciplines at the College of Karlovy Vary. This institute was established only recently. "What sort of professional background does he have?” Justice Josef Baxa asked. However, in the end the judges recognized Mazel’s expertise. Vandas labeled the evaluation a “subjective little work”. In his view, Mazel cannot be considered independent because he is a member of the TOP 09 party; Mazel confirmed that he is a member of that party.
The court also heard from North Moravian detective Rostislav Chobola, who testified on the connections between the DS, neo-Nazis and radicals in northern Moravia. Chobola submitted profiles of several people who have run as DS candidates in the Olomouc and Moravia-Silesia regions and have long been active in the skinhead community, attending National Resistance events and concerts by radical groups.
Just as on Wednesday, the court projected photographs from privately held events at which the DS candidates are shown giving the Nazi salute. "I call them either naughty children or sick people,” Chobola said, adding that it was clearly demonstrable that Jakub Kotlář and Jiří Švehlík, who ran as DS candidates, are part of the neo-Nazi community. "I am basing this on my many years of experience,” the detective said.
The court wanted to depose Švehlík as a witness today as well, but the young man refused to testify on the grounds that he did not want to incriminate either himself or anyone else. Jiří Šlégr, another party member, also refused to testify.
Other police specialists on extremism testified to the connection between the DS and neo-Nazis on Wednesday, for example, that those suspected of the arson attack in Vítkov attended DS events. Chobola confirmed the claim again yesterday without providing details.
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