The Guardian October 11, 2000


Czech Republic:
Protests against police brutality

There were protests last week at Czech embassies and consulates in 
Amsterdam, Oslo, Venice, London, Rome, Bratislava, Berlin, Warsaw and 
Poznan as evidence of Czech police torture and brutalisation of anti-
IMF/World Bank protesters, tourists and local residents mounted.

The police said they would be charging 25 of more than 850 people arrested 
during anti-capitalist globalisation protests in the last week of September 
with various public order offences.

Those facing charges include 20 foreign nationals from Hungary, Spain, 
Denmark, Poland, Austria and Germany.

Among those held and brutalised by the Czech police were a South Korean 
associate professor of economics at Prague's Charles University on his way 
home from work and the President of the Students' Union at Trinity College, 
Dublin.

Byeongju Jeong, who lived in the USA before coming to Prague three years 
ago to teach at the university, was arrested near Wenceslas Square on 
September 26 as he was returning home.

He told the English-language weekly The Prague Post: "Officers 
struck me with about a dozen fist and baton blows as they released me, 
after holding me for 24 hours and deciding not to charge me.

"While I was in jail, I heard other officers shouting at prisoners, 
slapping them about the head and kicking their legs. Foreigners were beaten 
as they were released. The police became the lawbreakers they were supposed 
to fight against."

Arrested on September 25, Rory Hearne, 21-year-old head of the Dublin 
University's student union, told the Czech News Agency that he and other 
arrested protesters were beaten by the Czech police, denied legal 
representation and sleep, and made to stand for four to five hours with 
their hands tied behind their backs.

"Prisoners, including women, were humiliated by being forced to strip. 
There was a camera in our cell and if we fell asleep, the police hammered 
on the door. We were made to stand all night in a yard in the cold with our 
hands tied behind our backs. We had to pay for our food and we weren't 
allowed to make a phone call."

When he was transferred to the Aliens' Police HQ in Prague's Zizkov 
district the following day, he and other prisoners were randomly kicked and 
strip searched. He was finally released on Thursday evening (September 28).

OPH, a Czech independent monitoring group, has also complained about the 
Czech police's brutal treatment of prisoners and says it has video and 
other evidence that the police used agent provocateurs to provoke violence 
during the Prague demonstrations.

Radislav Charvat, commander of the Czech police's IMF/World Bank 
operations, has admitted that there were "several hundred" undercover 
police officers on duty on September 26.

In addition to similar claims by BBC World TV's reporter and other 
journalists, the Czech daily Lidove Noviny reported they were 
dressed like demonstrators and, after committing acts of violence, allowed 
through police lines.

According to American journalist Gwendolyn Albert (in 1989 an interpreter 
for Havel's anti-communist Civic Forum) in The Prague Post: "It is 
illegal for undercover police to commit crimes, and these reports raise the 
question: to what extent was the violence provoked by undercover police?"

There is no independent investigation of complaints against the police in 
the Czech Republic, so they are denying treating prisoners brutally and 
putting the onus of proof on their bruised and battered victims, many of 
whom are of course now safely out of the country.

The police were careful to segregate the foreigners they arrested from the 
Czechs and treated them more brutally.

Meanwhile, loony right-wingers like Miroslav Macek, 1st vice-chair of the 
right-wing Civic Democratic Party, the country's second largest 
parliamentary party, said the police should have used live ammunition 
against the demonstrators, while Social Democrat Interior Minister 
Stanislav Gross thinks that the Czech police should be equipped with rubber 
bullets.

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Postmark Prague No.324 A free sample copy of Postmark Prague, a 16 page illustrated English- language news review, is available from PP, PO Box 42, 182 21 Prague 8, Czech Republic (e-mail: postmarkprague@cmail.cz).

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