Workers’ Party trial Day 3: Chair says German NPD is an uncontroversial partner
Today was the third day of the Supreme Administrative Court’s proceedings in Brno on banning the Workers’ Party. Topics to be covered included, among others, the attempted pogrom on the Roma at the Janov housing estate in November 2008 and other public events convened by the Workers’ Party. In the afternoon the court was to depose the head of the party’s Prague organization, Patrik Vondrák. Police arrested him last October during a raid on ultra-right adherents. Vondrák is connected with the National Resistance organization. Police experts also testified today.
Karel Bačkovský, who is representing the Czech Government along with Tomáš Sokol, drew attention at the start of today’s proceedings to a collection announced by party chair Tomáš Vandas in support of imprisoned neo-Nazis. The money is meant to insist Patrik Vondrák and Michaela Dupová. Bačkovský says the Russian analog of National Resistance is informing its members of the collection and calling for “aid to our Czech friends imprisoned for their political opinions”, reports iDNES.cz.
The contacts between the Workers’ Party and neo-Nazis in Germany and Slovakia were also reviewed before the court. Vandas said he does not see anything wrong with collaborating with the National Democratic Party (NPD) of Germany. He also refused to distance himself from the statements made by a speaker from the Slovenská pospolitost (“Slovak Solidarity”) organization at a Workers’ Party event in Hradec Králové in 2008. The speaker said the current political system is "larded with Zionists".
Karel Bačkovský, who works for the Czech Interior Ministry’s Security Department, told the court that the German NPD is a very radical political force. "The NPD is a properly registered party in Germany. What’s wrong with political parties communicating internationally? The NPD is represented in the state parliaments," Vandas responded.
The extreme-right NPD is represented in the parliament of Saxony and of Mecklenburg – Upper Pomerania. The German Government and Parliament each did their best to ban the party in the past, but the German Constitutional Court rejected their attempts. The party is now encountering financial difficulties.
According to the Czech Government, the Workers’ Party also collaborates with many other radical German groups. On Tuesday the court discussed the 1 May 2008 event convened by the Workers’ Party in Prague. Steffen Pohl spoke there as a representative of the Free Resistance Dortmund organization about the “Zionist-occupied European Union.”
According to the Czech Government, Pohl also made statements supporting Hitler’s ideology, stating that Germany had “liberated itself from international financial capital” 75 years ago (i.e., at the moment Hitler rose to power). On Tuesday Vandas said he had not invited Pohl to the event and had not seen him since. However, today it came to light that Pohl evidently also spoke in Hradec Králové in August 2008 at an event organized by the Workers’ Party. "I participate in a great number of events. I cannot remember the names of all of the speakers," said Vandas when asked to explain his error.
The party has been collaborating with radicals from Slovak Solidarity for a long time. Vandas did not want to distance himself from their speaker’s statement about the Zionist system. "I do not need to distance myself from someone else’s statement. If you look at our program, you will not find any expressions such as ‘Zionism’ there,” he said. Today he also admitted that he had recently torn up a copy of the Czech Constitution in public as a protest against the criminal conviction of a party member.
The Supreme Administrative Court gradually reviewed the party’s public events today. It also addressed three incidents at the Janov housing estate in Litvínov during the second half of 2008. The party’s so-called “Protection Corps” first visited the problem-filled locality where many socially vulnerable people live on 4 October, but were chased out by local Roma, two of whom were later convicted of verbally assaulting a party activist.
On 18 October, right-wing radicals then convened a “protest against black racism” at the Janov housing estate, which the government in its presentation said was an attempt at revenge. Vandas does not endorse that event, which was dispersed by the town hall, even though party members spoke at it. The protest ended in battles with police. Attorney for the government Tomáš Sokol said the obvious aim of the event was to invoke and provoke tension. "This is clear evidence of how they are able to escalate unrest,” Sokol said.
The biggest event took place in Litvínov on 17 November 2008, which the government is now calling the “battle of Janov”. The event was organized by the Workers’ Party. Hundreds of police officers and party promoters conducted street fighting around the Janov housing estate for more than two hours. Approximately 1 000 riot police stood against roughly 500 extremists looking to march on the estate. Both demonstrators and police officers were injured on the scene.
Vandas admitted the party convened the gathering, which was followed by the march and battle. However, he does not endorse the conflicts. "No one can hold the party responsible for the ‘battle of Janov’,” he said. The government has submitted as proof of the party’s responsibility an edition of its Dělnické listy (“Workers’ News”) including an article on Vandas visiting a youth who was injured by an explosive during the battle and expressing support for him.
Sokol also submitted documentation of the party activists’ willingness to openly stand up to the security forces. "When the police call on participants [of a public gathering] to do something, and the participants resist instead of obeying, then they are disturbing the public order even if the original reason for their gathering is considered comprehensible or legitimate,” Sokol said.
The court summoned three witnesses for the afternoon session. Two were police officers and the third was the alleged ultra-right activist Patrik Vondrák, who was escorted to court from prison but refused to testify.
The news server Týden.cz reports that the Organized Crime Detection Unit (ÚOOZ) allegedly planned to arrest more promoters of the extreme right today. ÚOOZ spokesperson Pavel Hanták refused to confirm the information, telling the Czech Press Agency that the unit was currently performing “several operations”. Týden.cz then reported police arresting several people in Brno and Prague.
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