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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sentencing upheld for Czech extremists

The Brno Municipal Court has upheld fines and suspended sentences previously handed down to six members of the leadership of the dissolved Workers' Party (Dělnická strana - DS). Judge Šárka Schinzelová sentenced the men for extremist statements made in 2009 at a 1 May demonstration in Brno. The DS was subsequently dissolved by the Czech Supreme Administrative Court and its leadership, including its chair Tomáš Vandas, then founded the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS).

The suspended sentences of between four and eight months and fines of between CZK 20 000 and 30 000 were handed down by Schinzelová last November. Vandas was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 20 months, and a fine of CZK 25 000. The other sentences were very similar, but the Regional Court in Brno overturned the verdict on appeal and instructed the first-instance court to re-hear the case and to include a detailed deposition by Michal Mazel, an expert witness on extremism.

Mr Mazel was deposed on 10 May and confirmed that the 2009 statements made by the six were extremely radical, incited racial intolerance, and were indirectly connected to Nazism. Vandas and the others, in Mazel's view, violated the rights of minorities living in the Czech Republic through their remarks, in particular immigrants, Roma people, and the Vietnamese. The speakers warned against "an immigrant tsunami", labeled the Vietnamese drug-producers, and criticized Roma people for "abusing" welfare.

DSSS representatives had previously rejected Mazel's first evaluation of their speeches, calling his analysis confused and illogical. The judge did not agree.

"The defendants have since downplayed and minimized their original remarks, saying they were allegories, hyperbole, or jokes," the judge said. She reminded the court that the DS had been dissolved by the Supreme Administrative Court precisely because of the extremist approach taken by its leadership and promoters and emphasized that "not even seven-year-old child" could believe the defendants' arguments. The judge reminded the defendants that they had referred to the Nazi Third Reich in their speeches and lauded a "white Europe".

Speaking after the verdict was handed down, Vandas told the Czech Press Agency that he and the others who had been sentenced would appeal to the Brno Regional Court once more. "We are carrying on with speeches like the ones we made on 1 May 2009. We do not intend to change anything about them and we are not ashamed of them. They were true statements... I definitely do not have any reason for repentance or self-pity," the DSSS chair stressed.