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Former secretary for Czech ultranationalist party rejects indictment over his remarks about minorities

17.12.2018 15:16
Jaroslav Staník (SPD), a close collaborator of Tomio Okamura and the secretary of the
Jaroslav Staník (SPD), a close collaborator of Tomio Okamura and the secretary of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) party in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Website of the SPD)

Jaroslav Staník, a former secretary of the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party, appeared before the District Court for Prague 1 on 13 December to reject his indictment on charges of hate speech against Jewish people, LGBT people and Romani people, testifying that at the time he had been drinking in the restaurant of the lower house to celebrate the SPD's electoral success. The ex-secretary claimed to have been discussing minorities with other politicians but denies having defamed them.

The indictment accuses him of felony incitement to hatred of a group, incitement to restricting a group's rights and freedoms, and of denying, doubting, approving of and justifying genocide. According to state prosecutor Zuzana Beňová, the former SPD secretary said on 24 October 2017 that "fags and lesbians are a disease and should be shot after being born."

Staník is also charged with saying that "homosexuals", Jews and Roma should be gassed to death. "This is a fabricated scandal that aims to damage the SPD," he told the court.

The ex-secretary said he had been defending himself against verbal assaults from other MPs and their assistants alleging that the SPD, of which he is no longer a member, is a racist party. Staník said that while he may have made some remarks, their context and wording were absolutely different than the way they have been characterized in the charges.

The defendant claimed to have been having dinner with MP Jaroslav Holík (SPD) in the restaurant at the time and to have been toasting the party's electoral success. He had been under the influence of alcohol and was teasing the outgoing MPs from other parties who did not win re-election.

"It was a pub debate where we were trying to top each other," Staník told the court. He added that he believed the other politicians who witnessed his remarks were also drunk.

Ex-MP Marek Černoch (Úsvit) confirmed that he heard the former SPD secretary make the defamatory remarks. Černoch told the court he had been in the restaurant at the time and overheard Staník say those words.

While Černoch could not recall the overall context, he said politicians were arguing with each other at the time. Former MP Martin Lank (Úsvit) gave similar testimony but said he could not recall the exact words used.

Former Labor Minister Michaela Marksová (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) told the court that during the evening Staník had called her "Marx-ova-Engels-ova". "That was not the first time, and it won't be the last," the former minister said.

Marksová testified that she did not hear the remarks due to which the ex-secretary is now being charged, but has heard about them second-hand. Judge Helena Králová had sentenced Staník at the end of July to a year-long conditional sentence, suspended for two years, and had also fined him CZK 70 000 [EUR 2 700].

The defendant disagreed with the accelerated judgment, so the judge had to order a formal hearing. He had been working as an assistant to MP Holík and secretary to the SPD party at the time he made the remarks.

Staník ceased to work as an assistant at the close of November and start of December 2017 because, according to Holík, the job of party secretary was becoming too busy for him to serve in both posts. The chair of the SPD, MP Tomio Okamura, subsequently announced that Staník was no longer a member of the movement and no longer its secretary either.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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