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Several charged after police mount biggest operation against Czech neo-Nazis
10-06-2009 - Ian Willoughby
Political extremism, especially on the far right, has been a big issue in the Czech Republic over the last six months, with a strong perception that it is on the rise. It may have been a coincidence, but on Tuesday the subject was all over the news for a variety of reasons. Police arrested a number of neo-Nazis and announced the setting up of new riot squads, while many of the country’s political leaders signed a declaration condemning extremism.

Photo: CTK Tuesday’s operation, which reports say followed months of surveillance, has been described in the media as the biggest single strike the Czech police have undertaken against the country’s far-right radicals.

A couple of dozen people were detained after raids in four towns and cities including Prague. In the end 10 were charged with ‘promoting a movement aimed at suppressing rights and freedoms’, the standard charge for racist hate speech and other such crimes in the Czech Republic.

Several of those charged were members of neo-Nazi rock bands with names like Attack, Devil’s Guard and Empire, known for their racist and hate-filled lyrics. Concerts featuring groups of this kind are among the most visible gatherings of far-right extremists.

Following the raids and arrests on Tuesday, a few dozen other neo-Nazis held a protest outside a police station in central Prague, before moving on to Wenceslas Square when that gathering was broken up.

That demonstration passed off peacefully. However the fact several other events organised by far-right radicals have ended in violence has led the police to set up new dedicated riot squads in the north Bohemia and north Moravia regions. Previously only Prague and south Moravia had such units.

Photo: CTK In November North Bohemia was the scene of some of the worst clashes seen in the Czech Republic in years, when members of the ultranationalist Workers’ Party fought pitched battles with police who prevented them from entering a largely Romany neighbourhood.

The head of the Czech police, Oldřich Martinů, said the new riot squads were being established because an increase in extremist gatherings was likely.

Meanwhile, the minister for minorities and human rights, Michael Kocáb, on Tuesday presented a declaration signed against left- and right-wing extremism signed by the leaders of all the parties in the Czech Parliament (including the Communists), all members of the cabinet, the chairs of both houses, the ombudsman and ex-president Václav Havel.

They pledged to take a common position against extremism and condemned extremism, though their declaration was more a symbolic gesture than anything else.

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