Czech Republic: crackdown on neo-Nazis in wake of attacks

On June 14, police in Most, Czech Republic, arrested 15 participants in a neo-Nazi march protesting last week's police raid against members of the National Resistance far-right group. In the June 9 police operation, code-named "Power," 10 were arrested on felony charges of promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. They are suspected of organizing a series of Nazi-themed concerts. Petr Kotáb, vice-chair of the far-right Workers' Party, was among the arrested at the Most march. (Romea, Czech Republic, June 15)

The crackdown follows a series of attacks on Roma residents of the Czech Republic. On April 18, unidentified arsonists turned off water access to a Roma house in Vítkov, a small town in the country's northeast, and burned it down, leaving a two-year-old girl gravely injured. That same day, in the northern town of Usti nad Labem, a group of more than 500 neo-Nazi militants marched through the streets to celebrate Hitler's birthday. In northern Moravia alone, more than 10 similar attacks have occurred recently. Hungary has also witnessed several arsons, murders and assaults targeting Roma.

Thousands of Roma across the Czech Republic held simultaneous peaceful marches, organized by initiative Dost ("Enough") on May 3 to protest the intensified violence targeting their communities. Militants associated with the Workers' Party, National Resistance and the Autonomous Nationalists attacked the demonstration in Chomutov, as police stood by.

Roma activists have called for their communities not to depend on the state for protection, and to prepare themselves to fight back if attacked by neo-Nazis. The Roma community has already initiated neighborhood vigilante patrols in some regions of the country. Faced with xenophobia and hostility in the Czech Republic, Roma increasingly seek asylum abroad. According to the Canadian Embassy in Prague, 861 Czechs, the majority of them Roma, applied for asylum in 2008. In the first quarter of 2009, more than 650 asylum seekers filed their applications. The numbers are significantly higher when compared with other Central European countries—for instance, 288 Hungarians applied for asylum in Canada in 2008. Toronto's National Post reports that the Czech Republic has become one of Canada's top origin countries for refugees, ahead of Iraq or Afghanistan. (ISN, June 15)

See our last posts on the Czech Republic and racist attacks on the Roma.

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