PRAGUE (Mar. 2)
Czech police have arrested a dozen leaders of a skinhead organization, seizing magazines, CDs, cassettes and lists of movement supporters.
Czech Jewish leaders welcomed the news of the Feb. 19 raid as a sign that the Czech government was serious about cracking down on hate crimes.
“This would have been just another police action if it were not for the reaction from the government,” said Tomas Kraus, executive secretary of the Federation of Czech Jewish Communities.
Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman praised police officers who took part in the raid soon after the event.
“This is a good signal,” said Kraus. “It means that the government is treating [hate crimes] seriously.”
Last year, Kraus criticized the Czech court system for failing to mete out appropriate punishment to skinheads convicted of hate crimes.
Police involved in the raid said the lists of skinhead supporters were among the most valuable results of the raid. The lists included names of subscribers to skinhead magazines — and financial supporters of the movement.
The police official responsible for the raid said that people on the list, as well as the dozen skinheads who were arrested, could face criminal charges. The skinheads face three to eight years in prison.
Skinheads have been tried for the murders of at least three Romany in the Czech Republic in the past five years. In November 1998, a teen-age skinhead was charged with stabbing a Jewish soldier in what local Jews believe was the first act of anti-Semitic violence directed against a person since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended Communist rule.