Cablegate: Embassy Sponsors Workshop On Extremism

Published: Thu 17 Dec 2009 01:03 PM
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1. (SBU) Summary: On September 29, the Embassy's Political Section,
in cooperation with the Legal Attache, hosted a workshop on
extremism in the Czech Republic. The debate featured the Deputy
Interior Minister, judges, prosecutors, police, and two FBI special
agents. The Czech Deputy Interior Minister cited concrete steps the
GoCR has taken in 2009 as part of Interior Ministry's Anti-Extremism
strategy, including forming a special task force fighting extremism,
distributing a manual for towns on how to deal with extremist
demonstrations, and projects for the socially excluded. Czech judges
expressed concern about internet crime and terrorism because many
Czech servers which present terrorist and extremist ideology cannot
be closed down because their domain is in the United States and the
First Amendment prevents the U.S. authorities from abolishing them.
End Summary.
The Workshop's Purpose and Priorities
2. (SBU) On September 29, the Embassy hosted a workshop on
extremism in the Czech Republic, building upon an earlier and
related seminar the Embassy organized last June on "Confronting
Extremism in the Czech Republic" (Reftel). While the June debate
focused on sociological and human rights aspects of extremism, this
latest workshop dealt with practical methods of investigation,
prosecution and legislation. The workshop was particularly timely as
there has been a rise in rightists' public activities, violence and
hatred targeted especially at the Roma population.
3. (SBU) Moderator Johannes Vandenhoogen, Legal Attache, outlined
three major areas for discussion: 1. An analysis and comparison of
extremism in the United States and the Czech Republic; 2. How the
government can successfully respond to extremism; and 3. The
effectiveness of law enforcement pertaining to extremism. The
workshop brought together 40 Czech judges, prosecutors, special
agents, police, and alien police dealing with extremism cases.
Extremism in the United States
and the Czech Republic
4. (SBU) FBI Special Agent Steven Kimball described various
categories of domestic terrorism in the U.S., noting that in some
categories (animal rights/environmental), the number of extremist
incidents has decreased recently, while in other categories, such as
white supremacy groups, incidents may be on the rise. Deputy
Interior Minister Jiri Komorous singled out white supremacy,
neo-Nazi and anti-Roma activities as the biggest problems in the
Czech Republic. Komorous expressed concern over the politicization
of confronting extremism. In response to these concerns, Komorous
said the government is developing better cooperation among police,
the Ministry of Interior and Czech municipalities.
A Disturbing Trend
5. (SBU) The most alarming issue, according to Komorous, is the
focus of right wing groups on the Roma population. He described as
the biggest security risk the rising support for right-wing
extremists in mainstream Czech society, which is now represented by
an official political party - the Workers Party. This party has
become a possible "gateway" to the political scene, similar to the
German rightist, extremist National Democratic Party (NPD).
(Comment: The Workers Party won 1.07 of the vote in the June 2009
European Parliament (EP) elections, enough to qualify for state
funding but not enough for a seat in the EP. In comparison, the
right-wing Jobbik party in Hungary won 14.8 percent of the vote in
the EP elections, gaining 3 seats, while the Slovak National Party
won 5.6 percent of the vote and will send one member to parliament.
Germany's NPD won no EP seats, but was successful in local elections
in 2009. End comment.)
6. (SBU) Komorous thinks a major problem in Czech society is a lack
of mutual adaptability of the broader population and Roma. He
singled out the need to convince the public that populist solutions
advocated by extremists, reminiscent of the Nazi "final solution" to
the Romani issue, cannot be tolerated. He emphasized education and
mentioned a Czech strategy for fighting social exclusion that was
recently adopted by the Interior Ministry, as well as a pilot
educational project currently under way in Chanov, one of the most
troubled localities.
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Extremists Spread Message Through Internet, Concerts
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7. (SBU) Both the American and Czech speakers discussed the danger
of spreading extremist ideology via the Internet. FBI special agent
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Thomas O'Connor mentioned that extremism in the United States is
primarily linked to religious, political, or anti-government views.
These views and speech are protected in the U.S. by the First
Amendment, which is not the case in the Czech Republic. Jiri Raz of
the Terrorism Unit of the Czech Police noted that neo-Nazis in
particular are starting to cooperate with like-minded groups in
other countries. The use of the Internet makes such collaboration
easier. Raz pointed out that the extremists' ability to host sites
in the United States, where they are protected under the First
Amendment, makes it difficult if not impossible to obtain
information regarding these sites through formal legal assistance
8. (SBU) As a catalyst to spreading this ideology, extremist groups
also use "white power" slogans and concerts to spread their message.
Raz pointed out that Czech neo-Nazis proceed on the ideology of "the
protection of the white race" as advocated by extremists in the
United States and Great Britain. They reject both communism and
capitalism as a "Jewish fabrication."
9. (SBU) Finally, another troubling trend according to Raz is the
use of violence against police and the targeting of politicians and
other officials.
Raz estimated the number of sympathizers of right-wing extremism at
five thousand and he described their organization as "leaderless
resistance and cell-focused." The reason for the leaderless concept
is, according to Raz, the extremists' conviction that the second
leader has not yet been born (with reference to Hitler).
10. (SBU) Czech prosecutor Brigita Bilikova provided the audience
with a vivid example of the threat in the Czech Republic by
reviewing her office's ongoing prosecution of individuals who
carried out an arson attack against a Roma family in the small North
Moravian town of Vitkov last April, in which a two-year-old girl
suffered burns on 80 per cent of her body (the girl survived but
will have health problems throughout her life). The investigation
revealed that the attack was motivated by racism and carried out by
the extremist Resistance Movement. The investigation, nonetheless,
also showed the willingness of investigators and prosecutors to
pursue such crimes.
Tougher Penalties, But Vague Legislation
11. (SBU) Judge Miroslav Capek of the Ministry of Justice gave an
overview of current and new Czech legislation on extremism (the new
legislation will come into force on January 1, 2010). He praised the
effort of the former Justice Minister, Jiri Pospisil, and his team
who put together much tougher penalties for terrorism and extremism
crimes. He expressed concern, however, over instances within the
police and the Czech army of extremist, neo-Nazi, racist, and
xenophobic sentiments. Capek singled out the example of a
professional soldier who appeared to be one of the founders of the
racist White Justice organization in the Czech Republic who was
involved in organizing four "fight camps" where he trained small
units of neo-Nazis for a guerilla war. The new penal code envisages
up to ten years in prison for this crime. Raz, however, said both
the old and the new penal codes are somewhat vague when it comes to
the issue of suppressing the rights and liberties of an individual.
Referring to the use of neo-Nazi symbols, Raz quoted a recent
decision of the Constitutional Court which ruled that "[in this
country, as well as in the whole of Central Europe] historical
experience [with German Nazism] suffices." The Constitutional Court
referred to Nazi atrocities during World War Two, which these
symbols evoke and the use of which is banned by the Czech law
(Article 260 of the Criminal Code, which bans the use of symbols
propagating extremist movements such as Nazism and Communism).
12. (SBU) In his closing comments, FBI/Legal Attache Vandenhoogen
reminded the audience of the seriousness of extremism, in particular
rightwing extremism. Czech, European and US authorities must work
together to deal with this issue, he said. Even though there may be
differences in the U.S. and Czech legal systems or approaches to
solving problems, these should not hinder efforts to eliminate
extremism, he added. The Embassy and the FBI welcomed requests from
our Czech colleagues to further collaborate on this issue.
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