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Experts say there is a threat of local wars between "ethnic gangs" in the Czech Republic

Prague, 1.3.2012 21:12, (ROMEA)

A recent study on trends in the neo-Nazi movement, commissioned by the Czech Interior Ministry and undertaken by a group of authors led by political scientist Miroslav Mareš, has warned that in several high-risk places in the Czech Republic, such as Ostrava, local wars between ethnic gangs might occur that could involve brutal clashes between groups of young people. In its section on violent neo-Nazi crime, the document also states that the practice of arson attacks on Romani dwellings has been renewed since 2007. The authors of the analysis say those attacks have primarily occurred in Central Bohemia and the environs of Bruntál. The report, in Czech only, is available at http://www.romea.cz/dokumenty/ceske_militantni_neonacisticke_hnuti_aktualni_trendy.pdf

The document states that should such an ethnic gang be comprised of "white" people, or rather of "ethnic Czechs", it may decide to make free use of neo-Nazi rhetoric and symbolism. "Their actual concern is control of territory, of a space in which to carry out criminal activities such as extortion, violent debt collections, or traffic in drugs (which naturally contradicts neo-Nazi ideals, but that would not be addressed within such a gang). These gangs could get into conflict with criminal gangs of ethnic Romani people who might choose to emphasize their Romani identity in high-risk territories (such as Ostrava) and local wars between these ethnic gangs could occur," the study claims.

The authors point out that mass actions and unrest in the neighborhood of impoverished localities predominantly inhabited by Romani people have already involved violent demonstrations. Neo-Nazis could initiate the violence on their own, as they did in 2008 at the Janov housing estate in Litvínov, or they could participate in spontaneous outbreaks of unrest. The report presented last year's events in the north of Bohemia as an example of that second possibility.

The analysis also mentions the tactic of neo-Nazis attempting to incite "ordinary" people against the police or use them as human shields during confrontations with police, as happened in Šluknov district. "They intentionally exacerbated violence against the police, to which they incited 'ordinary' citizens as well, and then took cover behind nonviolently protesting citizens, causing the police to intervene against everyone with repressive measures. The aim was to incite citizens against the police and make propagandistic use of the images of 'ordinary people' suffering from police repression," the report reads. Neo-Nazi propaganda after the incidents reportedly compared them to persecutions committed during communism.

"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.

The analysis has also noticed that the tactic of arson attacks on Romani dwellings has been revived in recent years, labeling this trend "one of the main violent outcomes of the neo-Nazi scene". Such attacks are said to have a tradition dating from the 1990s, when fascist skinheads or neo-Nazis were behind them. The study says that during the second half of the 1990s such attacks occurred primarily around Bruntál, Jablonec, and Krnov.

"While during the first half of the 2000s these attacks significantly declined (at least as far as we know), since 2007 they once again were added to the repertoire of the neo-Nazi scene, primarily of the autonomous and free nationalists. Once again, these attacks have been concentrated in two regions, Bruntál and its environs once more ( including Šumperk) and Central Bohemia," the document says.

The authors also point out that the only verdicts against these arsonists to have taken effect for the time being are the sentences handed down against those responsible for the Vítkov arson in Opava district and the convictions in the case of the attack in Býchory (Kolín district). "The perpetrators of the other attacks have never been determined, so their neo-Nazi background can neither be confirmed nor refuted. [...] What is problematic is that these tactically similar attacks have been evaluated by the legal system as constituting very different crimes (in Vítkov as attempted murder, elsewhere as reckless endangerment or attempted battery, etc.)," the study says.

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