Three Romanies were sentenced to four years in prison on Friday for a
racially motivated assault on a 35-year-old man. Two of them brutally beat
the victim in a town outside Karlovy Vary in western Bohemia in December
2007, repeatedly calling him “a white swine”. The third man, who was a
policeman at the time, was convicted of trying to cover up for them and
obstructing the investigation of the case. Two of the men appealed the
verdict on the spot.
The men faced sentences of up to ten years in prison but the court did not consider the attack to be attempted murder. The victim gave evidence under protection and will be given a new identity.
With the elections to the European Parliament coming up, political parties in the Czech Republic are trying to get their issues to the fore. Out of the sidelines of that effort however another issue has commanded attention over the last month and that is the problem of extremist political organisations and their presence in the media.
The Czech Interior Ministry is setting up a special team to fight growing extremism in the country. Jiří Komorous, the former head of the National Anti-Drugs Squad, who is to take up the post of deputy interior minister as of next week, has been entrusted with the task. Komorous said on Thursday he was in the process of assembling the anti-extremism team which would include police officers and members of the military. More information on the team and its activities is expected within a week.
In related news, the Green Party called upon the director of Czech Television, Jiří Janeček, to resign over the airing of the commercial. The television removed the commercial after a wave of public condemnation and has since filed a lawsuit against the National Party. Czech Television stated on Sunday that neither the television nor its director comments on what politicians say during the course of their pre-election campaigns. Czech law compels broadcasters to run all commercials for political parties, however other laws prohibit the dissemination of fascism and hate speech in the media.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer has criticized the appearance of racist
ads in campaigning to the European elections, saying that his cabinet would
make the fight against extremism one of its top priorities. Public
broadcasters Czech Television and Czech Radio have both refused to
broadcast racist advertisement slots from the far-right National and
Workers parties. The ads promise “a final solution to the gypsy
problem” and contain slogans such as “Stop black racism” and “no
favouring of the gypsies”. Both broadcasters say they are filing charges
in connection with the ads. As public broadcasters they are obliged by law
to broadcast the election slots they receive from all parties running in
the European elections.
Prime Minister Fischer said on Wednesday his government would seek a ban on the far-right Workers’ Party. A request from the previous government to have the group declared illegal was rejected by a Czech court.
Public service broadcaster Czech Television has sparked a major row by broadcasting a pre-election spot for the extremist Národní strana, or National Party. The clip provided a platform for the far-right group to express its hatred of the country’s large Roma minority. This included the shocking promise of “a final solution to the gypsy problem.” In the uproar that followed the broadcaster eventually gave way and said it will not screen the spot again, though its judgement has been called into question.
Czech Television is planning to file a lawsuit against the neo-Nazi National Party after the group sent the station a racist campaign ad promising the “final solution of the Gypsy problem”, the news website novinky.cz reported. Czech TV broadcast the clip on Wednesday, because legally they had no choice, a spokesperson said. Both Prime Minister Jan Fischer and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb condemned the election spot and called on the minister of the interior, Jan Pecina, to order an investigation into the matter.
In an interview with the AFP news agency, Prime Minister Fischer said his government would seek a ban on the far-right Workers’ Party. A request from the previous government to have the group declared illegal was rejected by a Czech court. Mr Fischer also said his interim cabinet would not set a date for adoption of the common European currency. The caretaker prime minister is due to unveil his government’s policy priorities in the next few days.
On Tuesday, the Czech Charter 77 Foundation awarded two young Czechs, Jakub Štěrbík and Stanislav Vodička, this year’s František Kriegel Award for outstanding personal courage. A year ago the two stood up to skinheads shouting hate slogans and giving the Hitler salute. For his efforts, Mr Štěrbík was stabbed in the neck; his friend Stanislav Vodička came to his aid and was also knifed.
At a commemorative service at the former Terezín concentration camp in central Bohemia on Sunday, speakers warned against the rise in far-right extremism in the Czech Republic. Around 1,500 gathered in the National Cemetery at Terezín on Sunday to commemorate victims of Nazism. After a laying of wreathes, head of the Terezín memorial, Jan Munk warned against the rising number of far-right gatherings and marches taking place across the Czech Republic. He said that ‘as a Czech and a Jew’ he felt threatened by this trend. Head of the Czech Senate Přemysl Sobotka said that he was unhappy with the amount of media coverage far-right extremists enjoyed in the Czech Republic, and said that more should be done to clamp down on neo-Nazis in this country. This Sunday’s ceremony was the 63rd annual commemorative service at Terezín concentration camp, where over 2600 people died, and from which many thousands more were transported, during the Second World War.
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