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Czech authorities indict leader of anti-Islam movement for inciting hatred on Facebook

25.11.2015 21:24
Martin Konvička (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons, Venca24)
Martin Konvička (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons, Venca24)

The chair of the Bloc against Islam, Martin Konvička, was charged on 18 November with inciting hatred against Muslims because of remarks he has posted to Facebook. His legal representative, Klára Samková, announced the news to journalists yesterday.

The case is being handled by the state prosecutor in České Budějovice, which received a motion to prosecute on 12 February. According to the Bloc, which has been mentioned in state reports on extremism, this will be a political trial, but Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán (for ANO) has rejected such allegations as nonsense.

Konvička:  "When we win the elections, dear Muslims, we will grind you into meat and bone meal."

"The alleged offense is said to have been committed by Docent Konvička through several remarks he published in a semi-private group on his Facebook profile," Samková said. She added that the remarks were published between 2011 and 2014.

State Prosecutor Josef Richtr, who is supervising the case, confirmed that the notification he received about Konvička concerns, among other things, his previous statements posted to his Facebook profile about "grinding Muslims into meat and bone meal". Konvička's Bloc has been called a xenophobic sect by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD).

According to Konvička, "Islam is bad and ugly", and he has also declared that if the religion were to be repressed then there would not be any problems with migrants. "What the EU is doing now is even worse than the Munich betrayals," he has said, among other things.

Up to three years in prison or alternative punishment

Now the 46-year-old entomologist is facing charges for inciting hatred against a group of persons or the suppression of their rights and freedoms. Should he be convicted, he faces between six months and three years in prison.

Police say he used a publicly accessible computer network to commit his crime. Konvička could also be given an alternative punishment.

Those alternatives include house arrest, performing community service work, paying a fine, being banned from residing in a specific place, or being banned from attending cultural, sports and other social events. "The criminal report was first filed by the state prosecutor herself as part of her civic activism, it was a state prosecutor in northern Bohemia," Konvička's attorney told the press.

His attorney considers the case to be politically motivated; it is being supervised by a different state prosecutor's office than the one that reported the crime. According to information reported by the Czech News Agency (ČTK), the initial criminal report was filed by Jablonec State Prosecutor Věra Nováková.

"Several friends informed me about those [Konvička's] remarks on Facebook," Nováková told ČTK. She believed his remarks unlawful, which is why she wrote up the official report about them.

"I did this on the basis of my official responsibilities, because a state prosecutor is obliged, according to the Penal Code, to prosecute crimes she learns of," Nováková said. She sent the report to the branch of the state prosecutor where Konvička is a resident.

"That was the end of it for me and I don't know what happened with it after that," Nováková said. State Prosecutor Josef Richtr told ČTK that "I sent the criminal report (in February) to the police, which investigated and ascertained whether under the circumstances there were grounds for suspicion that a specific individual had perpetrated a crime, or in this case, a misdemeanor."

Bloc against Islam:  This is a political trial

Representatives of the Bloc against Islam believe the criminal report against Konvička was politically motivated. David Štěpán, spokesperson for the Bloc, said the indictment was a direct attack on freedom of speech delivered just one day after the 17 November anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

"That's nonsense. The police are not managed by me and I have no influence over them," Justice Minister Pelikán responded.

The Justice Minister had tweeted the following on 17 November, without any further details:  "Paragraph 356 Penal Code:  Whosoever incites the hatred of any (...) religion (...) will be punished by deprivation of liberty for up to two years." According to the media, his tweet was a reference to a demonstration that took place at Albertov in Prague that day involving the Bloc against Islam and Czech President Miloš Zeman.

Many politicians subsequently criticized Zeman's participation on the podium side-by-side with the representative of the extremist group. "Let the matter be independently investigated without any political influence. I would remind you that the remarks at issue are not ones that Mr President endorses, as he has publicly stated. Moreover, remarks of that sort were not made at the assembly in support of Mr President, they were made a long time ago," Zeman's spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček said in response to these developments.

Czech MP Olga Havlová (Dawn - National Coalition), who is also a member of the Bloc's "action committee", said the Czech Justice Minister is behind the charges. "I demand an explanation as to how the minister dares interfere with the independence of the judiciary. This is a political trial," she said, comparing the situation to the show trials of the 1950s.

Czech MEP Pavel Telička (for ANO) sees the matter completely differently and believes the state prosecutor should have taken action on the matter of Konvička long ago. "Anybody else could have sung the national anthem with the President, right?" he tweeted today.

Konvička was born on 2 November 1969 in Opava. He studied zoology at Palacký University in Olomouc and was a member of the university strike committee during the Velvet Revolution in November 1989.

He studied entomology and is working as a docent at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. He first came to public attention as the leading representative of the "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic" initiative, which launched a petition against EU quotas for refugee redistribution.

The initiative has organized several events against Islam and experts from the Czech Interior Ministry have mentioned it in their extremism reports. Konvička is now the chair of the Bloc against Islam, which had its constitutional meeting in June of this year, the logo of which features a crossed-out mosque.

Konvička criticizes Islam, which he says is not a religion but a militant ideology. In September the Bloc agreed to collaborate with the opposition party in the Czech lower house, Dawn - National Coalition (Úsvit - Národní koalice).

Dawn (Úsvit) wants the support of the Bloc during the next elections. Konvička would then be the so-called super-leader of the formation.

The educator does not mince words when it comes to his views on Islam. His most notorious remark on Facebook is the one over which he is now being charged.

In interviews with the media he has also called Islam a "freak show" and asserted that Muslims lie when they interpret the Quran. At the beginning of this year the Ethics Committee of the university said that if he does not change the way he discusses Islam, that institution should reconsider whether he should continue to be employed there.

On the 17 November holiday the Bloc against Islam organized an event at Albertov in Prague where Konvička, from the podium, voiced his support for Czech President Miloš Zeman, who addressed the meeting. Several politicians, university rectors and students subsequently criticized the event, asserting that Zeman had politically exploited the occasion and behaved like an enemy of democracy. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Extremism, Islám, Radikalizace, Racism, Xenophobia


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