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Experts: 4 000 militant neo-Nazis in the Czech Republic, attacks on Romani people will increase

Prague, 1.3.2012 19:56, (ROMEA)
Neo-Nazis threw stones at police in Varnsdorf last year. Photo:  Lukáš Houdek

In a study commissioned by the Czech Interior Ministry, experts on extremism estimated there are currently about 4 000 militant neo-Nazi activists in the Czech Republic, with a hard core of about 400 members. Police sources estimate the hard core as even larger, at 600 members. The experts believe the neo-Nazi scene is an ongoing threat with respect to crime, including violent crime. Among certain segments of the neo-Nazi scene there is even the latent risk they might resort to terrorism. During the next five years, the number of individual attacks committed by neo-Nazis against Romani people will probably rise. The ministry published the report, authored by a group led by political scientist Miroslav Mareš, on its website today (it is also available, in Czech only, at http://www.romea.cz/dokumenty/ceske_militantni_neonacisticke_hnuti_aktualni_trendy.pdf ).

The experts were commissioned by the ministry to produce the 50-page report in order to estimate the threat presented by the domestic neo-Nazi movement to the integration of foreigners into the Czech Republic. The document describes the history, development and current state of the neo-Nazi scene, the possible future risks it poses, new directions inside the movement, its ideological basis, and its symbols. The experts also recommend ways to pre-emptively confront neo-Nazism and say that current work with young people in the schools on this issue is "not very sophisticated". As for repressive measures, the experts say it is necessary to more thoroughly transform information about dealings between neo-Nazis into forms of evidence that can be used to criminally prosecute them.

Czech MPs on the Security Committee of the lower house agree that the ultra-right scene represents a serious problem. "I believe it's a real threat," Czech MP Zdeněk Bezecný (TOP 09) told the Czech Press Agency. According to Czech MP Jana Černochová (Civic Democrats - ODS), the radical right has already recovered from the recent dissolution of the Workers' Party (Dělnická strana - DS). The MP is also concerned about the political rise of extremists. "The nation is dissatisfied for the most part and that is always a positive breeding ground for radicals," she said.

Černochová said municipalities and regional authorities should be doing a better job of collaborating with the Czech Interior Ministry on prevention and that repression should always be immediate. Bezecný said it is important that society not accept the neo-Nazi movement's demonstrations. He also pointed out that historically, extremists always gain support during times of deteriorating economic situations. "However, we are not in a situation of great economic crisis," he noted.

The authors of the study also said that since the start of the 1990s the movement has undergone development and that a preponderance of the neo-Nazi "elites" have left behind their skinhead image. They say the hard core of the movement today is represented by the "free nationalists" and the "autonomous nationalists". The experts also expect a new style to develop on the neo-Nazi scene in the coming years, where in addition to a rising number of individual attacks on Romani people and attacks for which it will be difficult to trace the perpetrators, they expect some of them to legally arm themselves with firearms.

The authors also say the neo-Nazis will not just define themselves as against Romani people, but also through the topics of the economic crisis in Europe and immigration. The neo-Nazis' political grounding is determined primarily by secret organizations, mainly the National/Free Resistance (Národní/Svobodný odpor) and the Free Youth (Svobodná mládež). Some of the neo-Nazis also support the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and the Workers' Youth (Dělnická mládež - DM) shares staff with them in local party cells. Some others are reportedly doing their best, mainly at municipal level, to infiltrate established democratic parties and administrative bodies and to work there, for the time being covertly, to further their ideological aims. However, the experts say those efforts have not yet had much of a significant impact to date.

As far as violent mass actions are concerned, the neo-Nazis can initiate them on their own or exploit spontaneous unrest for their own purposes, which the authors of the study say was the case of last year's unrest in Šluknov district. "The neo-Nazis are presenting themselves as the protectors of 'law and order' in connection with problematic situations in the neighborhood of the so-called Romani ghettos and could even go so far as to use the tactic of lynching, which they expect would get them public support. This could take the form of targeted attacks and the lynching either of those who have perpetrated crimes or their family members," the study says.

In addition to an estimated 4 000 militant neo-Nazis, including members of politicized hooligan gangs, online communities, youth gangs and the several hundred members of the hard-core "convinced and systematically active" people, the report also mentions the movement's ideological leaders. Reportedly there are between 10 and 15 such people.

The experts estimate that 15 -20 % of the neo-Nazi movement is comprised of women. About one-quarter of the neo-Nazis are aged 13 - 18, including the so-called "Facebook warriors", who are militant primarily through that social network. The main portion of the movement, about 40 % of it, is comprised of people between 19 and 25, about 30 % of activists are between 26 and 35, and around 5 % are older than 35. Roughly 10 % of the people in the Czech neo-Nazi movement, according to the authors, are either college graduates or college students.

The end of the last decade is said to have been characterized by passivity on the neo-Nazi scene as the result of police actions against it. "The reactivation of the scene currently is being significantly aided by the Romani issue in the context of the situation in Šluknov district and other socially excluded localities, which is giving the neo-Nazi movement a new impulse for action," the authors say.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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