NEWS - Archive August 2009

Headlines 28 August, 2009

UN DEPLORES CONDITIONS AT MIGRANT DETENTION CENTRE (Greece)

28/8/2009- The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday it was shocked by the overcrowded and insanitary detention facility on the Greek island of Lesvos that is currently housing over 850 migrants including 200 unaccompanied children, many of whom come from war-torn Afghanistan. Staff from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited the detention centre at Pagani, built to hold between 250 and 300 people, earlier this week, according to the agency’s spokesperson Andrej Mahecic. “They were shocked at the conditions in the facility, where more than 850 people are held, including 200 unaccompanied children, mostly from Afghanistan,” he told told reporters in Geneva on Friday. UNHCR staff described the condition of the centre as “unacceptable,” he stated, adding that one room houses over 150 women and 50 babies, many suffering from illness related to the cramped and unsanitary conditions of the centre.
UNHCR said it had received assurances from the the Greek government that all the unaccompanied children at Pagani will be transferred to special reception facilities by the end of the month, and some measures have already been taken to improve conditions at the centre.
But Mahecic noted the situation in Pagani is “indicative of broader problems relating to irregular migration and Greece’s asylum system,” especially its treatment of unaccompanied children, which UNHCR has been trying to assist with. While nearly 2,700 unaccompanied children are known to have arrived in the country last year, many more are believed to have entered undetected, UNHCR noted. “Greece has no process for assessing the individual needs and best interests of these children,” said Mahecic. “While the government has made efforts to increase the number of places for children at specialized, open centres, arrivals outstrip these efforts and children remain in detention for long periods.” The agency is involved in a project aimed at improving reception facilities on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesvos and at the Evros land border, he added.
© Adnkronos

up  

27/8/2009- A new trial will begin in Novi Sad on Thursday against neo-Nazi group Nacionalni Stroj leader Goran Davidović. The retrial comes after the District Court in Novi Sad abolished the verdict after an appeal by Davidović, which pointed out that parts of the court papers where in Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, and parts in Serbian Latin. In the new process, the documents are expected to be corrected and written completely in Cyrillic. In the original verdict, the Novi Sad Municipal Court called for Davidović to pay journalist Dinko Gruhonjić RSD 500,000 for damaging his honor, reputation and rights. Gruhonjić’s attorney Vladimir Beljanski said that he believes that the trial will be put to an end once the documentation is corrected. “I expect that the trial will end. The abolishment of the original verdict becomes pointless because nothing special will happen during the trial,” he said.
© B92

up  

WHEN BLOOD STARTS FLOWING, WHERE WILL WILDERS' VOTERS BE? (Netherlands, opinion)

Do the many supporters of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders fully realise the dangers of a divided society? When people feel rejected, they will start to display hostile behaviour.
By Ian Buruma

25/8/2009- The usual percentage of people voting for extreme-right parties in Western European countries - whether out of protest or out of conviction - is around 15 percent. Twenty percent is considered high. In the Netherlands opinion polls suggest that 40 percent of Dutch people agrees with the ideas of Geert Wilders. Agreeing with him doesn't necessarily mean that they will vote for him, but it is a serious phenomenon. It seems too simple to say that Wilders' popularity is based solely on the behaviour of Moroccan youth, as some have suggested. This doesn't explain, for instance, why radical populists get high scores in other European countries. It may be that the British, Swiss, Danes and Austrians have their own versions of the loitering Moroccan youth in the Netherlands, but it is striking how many people who say they are afraid of non-Western immigrants seem to live in villages that hardly have any.

'Left-wing church'
Resentment is usually the source of populism; resentment against the political and cultural elites who are deemed responsible for the decay, the decadence, the flood of alien elements, and the betrayal of the common man. This has happened before. I think the current widespread dissatisfaction has to do wit the consequences of globalisation, the ill-understood - but not imaginary - power of multinationals and political institutions, and the apparent powerlessness of national governments that are perceived as pursuing their own interests rather than those of the voters, who in turn feel like they've been left to fend for themselves in a time of rapid changes. These transformations are felt much more in poor areas than in places where the elite live. Politicians like Wilders thrive on this general feeling of discomfort. They do this by linking problems like crime, Muslim extremism or the undemocratic nature of multinational corporations to the ever simmering resentment against the 'cultural elites', the 'left-wing church', or whatever they want to call the perceived wrongdoers. A few Americans have now joined the choir by blaming this cultural elite for undermining Western resilience to the point that Europe will soon be 'Islamised' and become 'Eurabia'. In his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, US journalist Christopher Caldwell argues that European cultures have become too weak to be able to resist the much stronger Islamic culture (whatever that may be). What's more, the higher birth-rate among Muslim will soon put them in the minority.

Eurabia
Given that Muslims now make up only about 5 percent of the European population this seems like a bold statement. Additionally, when Muslims do well they tend to have fewer children so poorer Muslims will have to work very hard indeed to make up for the difference. What's more, a great number of Muslims are not practicing. The link between Islam and the street violence in the immigrant-dominated Slotervaart neighbourhood of Amsterdam, or Rotterdam West, has always been shaky. The alarming image of Eurabia, which Wilders and others like him are holding up to their voters, is often based on a categorical confusion. A recent article in an American publication referred to criminal behaviour but young immigrants in Amsterdam as a 'war against the West', as if rioting there was part of a worldwide jihad. Religious orthodoxy, or neo-orthodoxy, is also often equated with ideological extremism, as if there was potential assassin behind every bearded Wahabi, every veiled woman. Of course the link between Islam and violence is not always imagined. People are being killed in the name of jihad. Some neo-orthodox Muslims are recruited for the Holy War. It is worrisome that some European Muslims, especially the young, sympathise with such holy warriors. And the violent threats against critics of Islam are an essential problem that the government needs to be firm against. Still, it will always be necessary to distinguish between religion and revolution, between orthodoxy and violence. There is no room for this distinction in Wilder's statements. He is careful enough not to say this in so many words, but the logical conclusion is that everything that has to do with Islam needs to be removed from Europe like a cancer.

Too chic
The fear of being overwhelmed by foreigners is usually associated with the right. Historically this is true. The so-called saviours of our civilisation - against the Bolsheviks, the Jews or the decadent elites - have usually come from right-wing circles. The perceived threat of Islam has changed this. They may consider themselves too chic to associate themselves directly with Wilders, but these days it is often people from a left-wing background who rail the most against Islam. A certain degree of aversion to religion among people who fought to free themselves from religion in the sixties is understandable. The men who came from villages in Morocco and Turkey during those same sixties often have ideas about women and homosexuals that are out of touch with the more progressive ideas we have come to accept as normal. But, again, intolerance against homosexuals, though reprehensible, is not the same as revolutionary extremism. As long as no violence is involved, that kind of intolerance is something we can live with, just like we live with orthodox Christians or ultra-orthodox Jews. Good education can help there, and of course everything needs to be done to prevent aggression against women or homosexuals. But normative differences will always exist; it comes with being a pluralistic society. Another thing is that the strict, purist form of Islam propagated and funded by Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with the traditions of Anatolia or the Rif mountains. This kind of neo-orthodoxy appeals above all to second generation immigrants, those who were born in Europe but don’t quite feel ‘at home’ there yet. Wahabist purism is not an old tradition, let alone Moroccan. It is a relatively modern ‘born again’-type religion that is propagated over the internet, often in English, and appeals to people who don’t feel at home anywhere.

Kulturkampf
The political extremism of groups like Al Qaeda isn’t traditional either. Most conservative Muslims disapprove of Osama Bin Laden’s religious pretences. Political Islam has been influenced by many ideas in the past one-hundred years, including Marxism. I’m not saying this to defend political Islam, which is certainly dangerous. But the danger would be even greater if we look at the fight against violent political Islam the way Wilders does: as a clash of civilisations, a Kulturkampf against Islam as a whole. If we are going to win the fight against political violence it is important that peaceful Muslims, even very strict ones, can find a place in European society. Only then can we isolate the violent elements and prevent more Muslims from sympathising with a bloody dream in the name of their religion out of fear, anger or resentment. You can say a lot of things about Tariq Ramadan, the Islamic philosopher who was just fired as an adviser to the city of Rotterdam: vanity, intellectually wooliness, opportunism. But he has never pleaded for an Islamic state in Europe, let alone a violent revolution. He wants European Muslims to behave as democratic citizens. Certainly, he propagates an orthodox interpretation of Islam, but the tries to combine this with his mainly leftish political ideas. Politics, says Ramadan, should be inspired by the ethical impulse of faith. He may not always be tolerant, but he will always be a democrat.

And yet Ramadan has now become another hate symbol among people who agree with Wilders. That is hardly surprising. If you start from the premise that Islam is a threat to Western society, and any openness towards Muslims in Europe is a cowardly collaboration with evil, then the kind of rapprochement which Ramadan is talking about becomes impossible. One consequence of the popularity of Wilders’ world image is that many highly educated immigrants no longer feel welcome in the Netherlands. Some are returning to Turkey, which of course is just fine with the Wilders supporters. But there is a much bigger risk attached to the Kulturkampf. If people feel rejected, one shouldn’t be surprised if they develop a hostile attitude. As the hostility increases we will get exactly what so many people are so afraid of. The distinction between believers and ideologists is blurred. Sympathy turns to action. Society as a whole is divided into camps, Muslims against non-Muslims. That’s when the blood starts to flow in the streets. Islamic extremists would like nothing better. Some racists in the Netherlands might applaud it too. But whether the 40 percent of Dutch people who now say they agree with Wilders will still want any part of it is another question altogether. It is in any case something worth considering on the way to the polling station.
© The NRC

up  

SARKOZY'S (ANTI-IMMIGRANT, ANTI-EUROPEAN, ANTI-GAY) CRONY (France)

The President is keen to reach out to the right. But is Philippe de Villiers a step too far? John Lichfield reports

26/8/2009- France's anything-but-red baron, Philippe de Villiers, has described President Nicolas Sarkozy as an "imposter", "a liar" and a "Duracell bunny". That was in the distant, political past – a couple of months ago. Next month Viscount de Villiers – a virulently anti-European, anti-immigrant, anti-gay populist and Catholic fundamentalist – will become the latest addition to President Sarkozy's political menagerie, stretching from the soft, well-meaning left to the borders of the far-right. Mr de Villiers, or Vicomte Philippe Le Jolis de Villiers de Saintignon, has let it be known that he expects to sign up in September for Mr Sarkozy's "electoral coordinating committee" for the regional elections next year and, implicitly, for the next presidential election in 2012. The president's tactical motives in bringing Mr De Villiers, 60, into his broad political coalition are clear enough. With more than half his five-year term still to go, Mr Sarkozy is mocking the divided French left by tightening his effortless control over the right and centre. By allying himself with the Catholic conservative De Villiers, the twice-divorced, half-foreign, non-church-going president is reassuring the many traditionalist, haut-bourgeois voters who support him but mistrust him. Ideologically, however, the new alliance is bizarre and, to some of the president's supporters, disturbing.

Mr Sarkozy likes to present himself as a pragmatic pro-European, the saviour of the Lisbon treaty on EU reform and a man determined to break down social and racial barriers. Mr De Villiers is a Europhobe, the man who coined the phrase "Polish plumber" to describe the alleged threat to France from the Lisbon treaty and European enlargement. Although avoiding (just) the outright racial fear-mongering of Jean-Marie Le Pen, Mr de Villiers often makes exaggerated claims about the "islamisation" of France. He has accused Islam, not just radical Islam, of being engaged in a de facto "war" with the West. ("Islam is the breeding ground of radical Islam and radical Islam is the breeding ground of terrorism.") He is also a vituperative campaigner for "family values" and against gay rights. France's successful civil partnership law or PACS which allows gay partners – and others – to make formal commitments to one another, is, he says, a "return to barbarism". For 28 years, Mr de Villiers has manoeuvred on the fringes of the traditional right without ever creating a personal following of more than 4 or 5 per cent of the electorate. But Mr de Villiers has justified his decision to join forces with Mr Sarkozy as the best way to move his ideas from the margins of French politics into the heart of government. There are rumours, not yet denied by the Elysée Palace, that President Sarkozy may be considering a junior ministerial role for Mr de Villiers.

So far President Sarkozy has handled his policy of "ouverture" to politicians of the moderate left and centre reasonably well. There are fears, both inside and outside the government, that reaching out to Mr de Villiers may be a bridge too far. The league against racism and anti-Semitism, Licra, has protested that the president's new alliance amounts to a "back-dated justification" of "intolerable racist remarks" made by Mr de Villiers in the past. To keep its new ally happy, the league predicts, Mr Sarkozy's own party, the Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), will have to push its own rhetoric and policies "to the right or even to the far right". Philippe de Villiers descends from the Orléans branch of the French royal family. In the early 1960s, his father, Jacques de Villiers, was linked to the OAS, the right-wing terrorist movement which campaigned to keep Algeria part of France and tried to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle. The family comes from the Vendée, the département just south of Brittany which revolted against the French Revolution and remains fiercely catholic-conservative. As a young man, Mr Philippe de Villiers was a senior civil servant and then an entrepreneur, setting up radio stations and – in 1977 – a live spectacle arena and theme park at Puy du Fou in the Vendée, which was extremely successful. The shows are usually dedicated to France's glorious, royalist, conservative, pre-revolutionary – and pre-democratic – past.

After flirting with the mainstream right for a decade, he created his own political party, the Mouvement pour la France (MPF) in 1991. The high points of his political career (to date) were, 4.7 per cent of the vote in the first round of the 1995 presidential election and, jointly with Charles Pasqua, 13 per cent in the 1999 European elections, defeating a more moderate right list led by Mr Sarkozy. Mr de Villiers has been a Euro MP on and off ever since and has often been named as the least active, and one of the most absent, members of the European assembly. Mr De Villiers campaigns for low taxes, no immigration, no mosque-building, no gay rights and for policies to encourage and reinforce the traditional family. His symbolic status as an anti-gay family man, with seven children, has been damaged in circumstances which remain somewhat opaque. His son Laurent, 24, has accused his older brother, Guillaume, 29, of having repeatedly raped him when he was a child. The accusation was withdrawn last year and then renewed in January. A legal investigation is under way. Mr De Villiers claims Laurent has been "manipulated" to damage his career. Sarkozy supporters on the moderate left and even on the right have been puzzled and angered by his decision to reach out to Mr De Villiers. Tactically, the viscount's support could give the president two to three per cent extra votes in the first round in 2012 – enough to give Mr Sarkozy unstoppable momentum into the second round. But his presence in the president's broad coalition may be a damaging source of incoherence and embarrassment. With the left still scattered and leaderless, why bother?
© The Independent

up  

MICROSOFT IN WEB PHOTO RACISM ROW (Poland)

26/8/2009- Software giant Microsoft has apologised for editing a photo to change a black man's head to that of a white man. The picture, showing employees sitting around a desk, appeared unaltered on the firm's US website. But on the website of its Polish business unit the black man's head was replaced with a white face, although the colour of his hands was unchanged. Microsoft said it had pulled the image and would be investigating who made the changes. It apologised for the gaffe. The altered image, which also featured an Asian man and a white woman, was quickly circulated online. Bloggers have had a field day with the story, with some suggesting Microsoft was attempting to please all markets by having a man with both a white face and a black hand. "The white head and black hand actually symbolise interracial harmony. It is supposed to show that a person can be white and black, old and young at the same time," said one blogger on the Photoshop Disasters blog. Others have suggested the ethnic make-up of the Polish population, which is predominantly white, may have played a part in the decision to change the photo.
© BBC News

up  

BNP STIR ISLAMOPHOBIA IN EPPING FOREST (uk)

28/8/2009- The British National Party (BNP) has been accused of stirring Islamophobia in Epping Forest after it issued a “No mosques in Loughton!” leaflet. In the latest edition of the BNP’s Epping Forest Patriot, delivered to many households in Loughton, the group attacked the use of the Murray Hall, in Borders Lane, for Friday prayers. Under a picture of a union flag being eaten away by the crescent, the leaflet says: “In parts of neighbouring Redbridge and east London the Islamification process is almost complete. We’ll do all in our power to prevent Islam creeping into our town.” Noor Ramjanally, who started to rent the hall at the end of March, from Loughton Town Council, has already been subjected to threats and an arson attack, which the BNP deny knowledge of. Speaking to The Muslim News he said, “I received a threatening letter on (Wednesday) July 1 saying, ‘We don’t want you to carry on at this. We know which school your kid goes to and which car you drive.’ On Thursday they set fire to my front door. They used an accelerant.” He said that his wife and son “are very disturbed. I’ve had to take my kid out of his school. It’s definitely targeted. They don’t want the Islamic community centre in Loughton, I don’t know why. I do find it worrying because of my wife and son. We don’t deserve to be going through all this stress, we just want somewhere to pray. It’s just from people who are basically idiots. They don’t know what my religion is about. We have the support of all the community.” Police have confirmed they are investigating both incidents as racially motivated.

With no mention of the fact the Christian group, Christcare Ministries, already uses the premises the BNP has claimed the use of the hall for Friday prayers was a way of “subtly” converting and conquering the local population. Loughton Inspector Tom Simons said the leaflet was “unhelpful” but lawful. He added, “We stand fully behind member of all religious faiths and fully recognise the right to practise their religions providing it falls within the law.” Town Clerk Enid Walsh told The Muslim News the hall is “available for hire by all members of the community and local groups, organisations, charities and clubs etc. The many varied organisations that currently use the facilities include several faith groups.” And despite the BNP’s best efforts Walsh said, “I can confirm that I have received no complaints from residents about the Friday prayer meeting.”
© The Muslim News

up  

A COMMITTEE AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA (uk, opinion)

Anti-Muslim prejudice is finding expression in more hate crimes. We need to tackle the problem at a nationwide level 
By Inayat Bunglawala

27/8/2009- Last month I wrote on Cif about a worrying incident in Loughton, Essex, in which Noor Ramjanally – a local Muslim figure involved in organising the Friday jumu'ah prayer sessions in the town's Murray Hall community centre – was the victim of an arson attack on his home. The attack had come very soon after Ramjanally had been sent a threatening letter from suspected far-right activists telling him to stop the prayer sessions and warning that "We know which school your kid goes to and which car you drive." Today the Guardian reports that earlier this week Ramjanally was abducted at knife-point by two men and driven to nearby Epping Forest where he was once again threatened and told to stop holding the Islamic prayer meetings. The local police have issued a statement saying: "The police are treating the incidents as 'hate crime' and a possible motivation would appear to be a link to the use of the Murray Hall, Loughton by the Muslim community for Friday prayers." Superintendent Simon Williams of Essex police said: "We are treating these offences with the utmost seriousness and are putting considerable resources into the investigation. "While that investigation continues we will be working with the whole population of Loughton to ensure that all members of the community are free to practise their religion and beliefs safely and freely."

The British National party – which has four councillors in the area – has been busy in recent weeks in stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment in Loughton. One of its flyers titled "No Mosques in Loughton!" warns that "In parts of neighbouring Redbridge and east London, the Islamification process is almost complete," and proclaims that "the BNP love Loughton and we'll do all in our power to prevent Islam creeping into our town." The leader of the BNP group on the local council, Pat Richardson, denies that the BNP were involved on the attacks on Ramjanally and has said that: "Firebombing is not a British method. A brick through the window is a British method." The events in Loughton are by no means isolated ones. Recent months have seen several arson attacks on mosques around the country including in Luton, Bishop's Stortford and Woolwich. There have been a number of explicitly anti-Muslim rallies held by groups calling themselves the English Defence League and Casuals United with more set to follow. In 2005 a parliamentary committee against antisemitism was established to "confront and defeat antisemitism in this country and beyond". At a time when anti-Muslim bigotry has become pervasive and is now translating into actual hate crimes, it is surely crucial that a similar committee against Islamophobia is also set up to monitor and help combat anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination.

One of the PCAA's recommendations was that the Home Office should require police forces nationwide to properly record antisemitic incidents so that an accurate picture could be formed of the true extent of the problem. It must now be time that this requirement was broadened to ensure that religious hate crimes against people of all faiths are properly recorded and categorised across the country.
© Comment is free - Guardian

up  

POLICE URGED TO BAN FAR RIGHT RALLY IN BIRMINGHAM (uk)

24/8/2009- West Midlands Police have been urged to step in and ban a far right group from holding a march in Birmingham next month to avoid a repeat of the shocking scenes of violence witnessed earlier this month. White nationalist organisation The English Defence League (EDL) and an associated group, Casuals United, are due to hold a rally against Islamic extremism in the city on September 5. Their first demonstration on August 8 ended with violence and bloodshed as supporters clashed with anti-racism campaigners. One of those calling for a ban was Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob, who expected more street violence if EDL returned. “When it comes to public safety we have every right to intervene,” she said. “But the ‘just stay away’ message we are hearing won’t wash with today’s Muslim youngsters who won’t put their heads down and carry on walking when they are subjected to racist taunts – they will react and fight back.” Yesterday, those at a public meeting to discuss how the city should deal with the group’s next visit voted unanimously that the police should have the demonstration banned. West Midlands Police were urged to join forces with Birmingham City Council to apply to the Home Secretary for a banning order under the Public Order Act. Luton is one of the places which has banned the EDL and other right-wing groups from holding marches for three months to avoid violence. But a senior police officer said there were no current plans to do so as the EDL had a legitimate right to hold its march.

 The Birmingham rally saw 35 people arrested, and running battles between protesters and police in riot gear in Victoria Square and New Street. Chief Insp Adrian Atherley, head of West Midlands Police’s diversity and community cohesion unit, told yesterday’s meeting how both groups involved, the EDL and the Anti Facist League, acted within the law and the problem lay with their supporters. “The people fighting were Brummies fighting each other. Why? Because they had been wound up and provoked by the groups who had left by then,” he said. He said to obtain a ban they would have to jump through numerous legal and bureaucratic hoops. “We have considered it, but section 13 of the Public Order Act is very specific about marches,” he said. “In Birmingham the situation is very different to Luton where the Chief Constable felt he could not police that event. We did not lose control on August 8 , there were no major injuries or damage, and in terms of disorder there was no loss of control.” He added: “Obtaining a section 13 ban requires the Chief Constable to go to the local authority to say in the event of a march I cannot police the streets and the local authority has to apply to the Home Secretary.” But he said their decision was constantly reviewed and he would feed back comments to the Chief Constable. Also at the meeting was Birmingham councillor Judy Foster, vice-chairman of the West Midlands Police Authority, who said she would be raising the issue of a ban during a meeting with the Chief Constable Chris Sims today.
© The Birmingham Post

up  

EXTREMISTS PLAN PROTEST OUTSIDE MOSQUE(Czech Rep.)

26/8/2009- The extra-parliamentary ultra-right National Party (NS) wants to stage a meeting outside the mosque in Brno on Saturday in protest against the planned construction of another mosque in the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the party writes on its website. Munib Hasan, from the Brno-based Islamic foundation, recently announced the plan to build a new mosque in Brno. The NS argues that "Islamists" threaten democracy. "This is why the National Party's local branch will light the 'half moon' in Brno with a clear light this Saturday, on August 29," the party says on the website. The Libertas Independent Agency associating Muslims in Brno said the planned protest meeting is "an act of pure despair," and that the NS allegedly wants to make a a false impression that it is supported by the public in Brno. "As members of the Brno Muslim community we are convinced that our fellow-believers will not let themselves be provoked... by a few extremists and like in the previous cases they will show citizens that the real problem is hatred spread by the National Party," Lukas Vetrovec and Lukas Lhotan, leaders of the association, said in a press release. Hasan told the press some time ago thar Muslims in Brno would like to have a large mosque since the capacity of the existing one is not sufficient. The NS opposes the plan. "In reaction to the public statements by Brno's Muslims about the construction of another, larger mosque in Brno and the open promotion of Islamism by the Muslim organisations in the Czech Republic, the National Party feels obliged to warn against the threatening of freedom and the democratic regime," the party writes on its website. The NS has been challenging Muslims in the long run. Its representatives visited the mosque once with a protest letter against alleged Islamism. Representatives of the Muslim community in the Czech Republic, on their part, have filed several complaints against the NS over its statements inciting racial hatred, but none of them has been accepted as substantiated.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

FAR-RIGHT DEFIANT OVER ARSON ATTACK (Czech Rep.)

Vandas: Suspect's donations don't implicate Workers Party

26/8/2009- The far right has dismissed reports that the Vítkov fire-bombing of a Roma family's home in April has damaged their political appeal. Interior Minister Martin Pecina indirectly linked the arson attack with the far-right Workers Party, but party leader Vandas denies they had any role in the atrocity. "We have received a good deal of support from citizens who understand that this corrupt regime is trying to falsely link the party to the Vítkov incident," Vandas said. On April 19, three Molotov cocktails were thrown into a house in Vítkov, north Moravia, where a Roma family were sleeping. Natálka, 2, and both her parents were seriously injured. Pecina plans to present a proposal to the Supreme Administrative Court to ban the party. No date has been set for a ruling. A similar attempt failed in March. "This is naive," Vandas said. "The minister should carefully read the verdict of the court in March, then he would understand that it won't succeed a second time." Vandas said the party had no connection with the attack, and he condemned it. Czech media reports said David Vaculík, one of the four arrested over the arson attack, was a long-standing benefactor to the extreme-right Workers Party.

"The arguments made by [Czech newspaper] Lidové noviny about David Vaculík being our sponsor are ridiculous," Vandas said. "This guy is not a member of our party; he willingly donated small amounts of money, about 100-200 Kč each time over the past two years. All together, it amounted to 1,000 Kč during 2007-08." The fact he made donations does not mean he had any special links to the party, Vandas said. "It is a public account anyone can donate to." Vandas also suggested Lidové noviny should track sponsors of the main political parties instead of accusing the far right. "I reject being linked to the Vítkov matters. Our party is not sponsored like the ČSSD [Social Democrats] and the ODS [Civic Democrats] are. The reporters of Lidové noviny should go after their sponsors." Police have arrested 12 far-right supporters from the region and accused four of them of racially motivated attempted murder. The suspects face at least 12 to 15 years in prison and possibly more. The police said the arrests were a major breakthrough in the fight against extremism. Roma activists say the Vítkov incident could be a turning point in the fight against far-right extremism.

The information was garnered from the annual reports of the Workers Party for 2007 and 2008, in which Vaculík is cited among the sponsors. The Interior Ministry refused to comment on whether the donations would increase the chances of the Workers Party being banned. A government plan to present a proposal in September to ban the party is far from certain to succeed. Czech neo-Nazis Erik Sedláček and Jiří Švehlík were also mentioned as being sponsors of the Workers Party. "Can anyone influence who sends money to you?" Vandas asked. "They send it to the account, and I do not examine this. I will certainly not send the money back." Natálka faces a number of operations over the next five years, doctors said. She was kept in induced sleep for almost three months. Because of her injuries, she communicates with her mother mostly by sign language. President Václav Klaus described the attack as a heinous crime. The lawyer for the Roma family targeted in the attack, Markus Pape, said more arrests could be imminent and that those who have been held are part of a larger group who planned that attack.
© The Prague Post

up  

RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to info@icare.to