Current Affairs Top court rejects government’s petition to ban extremist Workers’ Party

04-03-2009 16:13 | Jan Richter, Zuzana Kopuletá

The Supreme Administrative Court on Wednesday rejected a petition by the Czech government to ban the far-right Workers’ Party. The court said the cabinet had not provided sufficient evidence that the small extremist group - which first made headlines last year when its supporters staged a march on a Romany ghetto - posed a real threat to democracy. The verdict was applauded by the party, but probably by few others. The Czech government will now have to bring more proof to support its position, or come up with different ways of dealing with right-wing extremism.

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Workers’ Party leader Tomáš Vandas, photo: CTKWorkers’ Party leader Tomáš Vandas, photo: CTK When presiding Judge Vojtěch Šimíček of the Supreme Administrative Court read the verdict refusing to ban the extremist Workers’ Party on Wednesday, its supporters applauded and unravelled a party banner right in the courtroom.

It took the judge more than one hour to justify the ruling, but the reasoning was simple enough: the government had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the far-right grouping posed a genuine threat to democracy. Judge Šimíček had this to say:

“The government produced no evidence of the radicalization of the party’s activities with the ultimate goal of seizing power through non-democratic means, or of its violation of the Right to Assembly Act. The proceedings before this court did not show that the Workers’ Party’s activities, as documented by the government, provide reasons to dissolve it.”

The Workers’ Party made international news in November, when several hundred neo-Nazi skinheads, party sympathizers, staged a march on a Romany ghetto in the northern town of Litvínov, an attempt that in ended in a pitched battle with the police. The government responded by petitioning the Supreme Administrative Court to ban the party. But Wednesday’s verdict gave the party members a reason to celebrate. Tomáš Málek is the head of the Workers’ Party Brno branch.

“No, there’s not going to be any march today, we’ll just go and get together somewhere, to talk things over. We are extremely happy with the verdict but we were sort of counting on it. The government’s proposal was based on absolutely irrelevant arguments, so we were very confident.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK The verdict is a major setback for the government in its stance on extremism. While the Workers’ Party is relatively small, with some 600 members, its activities have gained a certain momentum. In 2006, the party won three seats in two municipal councils. The party’s strategy is straightforward – offering hard-line approaches to growing racial tensions with the country’s Romany minority. Miroslav Mareš is an expert on extremism at Brno’s Masaryk University.

“I think that there is no evidence of the Workers’ Party posing a really serious threat to democracy. So I believe that the main problem now will be to find evidence that concrete members of the Workers’ Party are involved in violent or neo-Nazi activities.”

The party can now enjoy its victory and all the media attention. If the government hopes to crack down on them in the future, it will have to come back with solid evidence. Or it can try and deprive the party of support by moving racial tension and other social issues much higher up on its list of priorities.

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