Workers’ Party leader in Ostrava a convicted violent criminal, information not included in Czech Government’s motion to dissolve the party
Tomáš Vandas, chair of the Workers’ Party, (Dělnická strana - DS), is very insistent in claiming that none of his party’s functionaries have criminal records. He has even asked them all to sign declarations to that effect, and therefore does not see the slightest reason why his party should be banned. This insistence on clean records was behind his vehement protests when Patrik Vondrák, chair of the Prague DS cell, was recently arrested.
However, there is already at least one case in which the principle of a clean criminal record cannot be said to apply to a DS functionary. The chair of the party’s local organization in Ostrava, Benedict Vácha, ran as their candidate in the 2008 regional elections. This active member of National Resistance Silesia has participated in many neo-Nazi demonstrations, such as the one in Orlová in 2003 (at the age of 16). Three years later he organized an event in Hlučín. He was also at the 1 May 2007 demonstration in Prague and shortly thereafter at one in Havířov. However, he has not merely been active in expressing his opinions in public. In at least one case he has followed them up with action.
Innocent people suffer for a football victory
The victory of the Czech Republic’s football team over Norway and their entry into the world championship in Germany in 2005 was celebrated in Ostrava by a group of youths in an exceptionally brutal way. Three men who had just reached majority, a 17-year-old girl and several other unidentified assailants proceeded to beat up at least seven unsuspecting people without provocation on the night of 16 November. Their motive was indicated by one who was later taken into custody and charged: He had given the Nazi salute during the attack. “It was like an avalanche that left a slew of injured people behind,” one of the victims, Deputy Director of the Czech Police in Ostrava Josef Pravda, told the daily Právo. “My friends and I were leaving a restaurant where we had been watching the match, and suddenly I was kicked in the back from behind.” While he remained on the ground, at least six skinhead attackers attacked other random passers-by."We did our best to prevent them, but it was very difficult, because they were really pumped up. My colleague tried to get the operations center to send out a patrol and they arrested part of the group in Tyršová street," Pravda said. As a result of the attack his back and elbow were injured. "The other victims I saw in the hospital suffered worse,” he told Právo.
The local reporter for the daily Lidové noviny was also attacked by the group while walking his dog. “I heard nothing and was suddenly struck from behind. I fell to the ground. They started kicking me, mainly in the head. Then they disappeared and I stayed lying on the ground in my own blood,” the journalist described the incident to the ČTK agency. After the attack he was unable to see out of his left eye, which was “decorated” with a bloody weal and several lacerations. "My face is a riot of color, the film director Tarantino might even offer me a role,” he joked. Although the police have repeatedly called on the public to help identify the three unknown assailants who remain at large, they have never been found.
Don’t be afraid, liquidate them
By October 2006, Benedikt Vácha had become a suspect in the case described above. On the web pages of National Resistance, a Nazi organization, he claimed he was innocent, adding: “Our faith is strong, and that is what they are afraid of, that they will never destroy us, that we will always go forward, and after every defeat we will get up again and again, a thousand times over if necessary! (…) I am not afraid of prison or death, my only fear is that I will not manage to do everything I have resolved to do. I keep this constantly in mind. I see the origin of this evil, and also who is spreading it. I will never forget!”
Vácha also presented himself as a member of National Corporativism Ostrava, an organization labeled extremist by the Czech Interior Ministry. This organization ceased to exist when the leadership of the Workers’ Party, which at the time was completely insignificant, decided to take the neo-Nazis under its wing so it could gain control of the streets throughout the country.
The criminal proceedings in the case involved almost surreal errors on the part of the investigating detectives. As a result, the Ostrava district court was able to sentence only two of the accused in October 2007. Benedikt Vácha and Veronika Zemňáková, a dogged promoter of the Workers’ Party, were both acquitted. For a long time thereafter, Vácha prided himself on this verdict even as the case was being appealed.
In November 2008, a demonstration of several neo-Nazi organizations in support of Serbia and against the independence of Kosovo took place in Karviná. Benedikt Vácha gave a speech there on behalf of the Workers’ Party. The event closed with participants burning the flag of the European Union.
Vácha finally convicted, Czech Government motion to dissolve the Workers’ Party fails to mention it
In February of this year, the Regional Court in Ostrava issued a final verdict on appeal in the case of Benedikt Vácha and his accomplices. The verdict found the Ostrava leader of the Workers’ Party guilty of participating in an assault on one of the victims together with a minimum of four other assailants; the court lacked evidence to sentence them for their participation in attacking anyone else. Vácha was sentenced for attempted grievous bodily harm and rioting to a two-year prison sentence, suspended for 28 months. His friend and fellow assailant Ivan Bohdan was sentenced for actual bodily harm, promotion of Nazism, and loan fraud to an overall verdict of six-and-a-half years in prison. The third convict, Milan Honkyš, received a three-and-a-half year prison sentence. According to the verdict, the court found Vácha guilty of “punching [the victim] in the face, throwing him to the ground, surrounding him and kicking him in the head and body while wearing heavy boots, and stomping on his head and body.”
Today Tomáš Vandas can claim he never knew anything about any of this. However, his claims that the functionaries of his party are clean will last only until the judges of the Supreme Administrative Court review their criminal records. The Czech Government, however, did not include this important verdict in its most recent proposal to dissolve the party, and the government’s filing is the only avenue by which such information is permitted to reach them. The question is: Why did they leave it out?
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