Bloc Against Islam leader charged with hate speech

Martin Konvička, photo: CTK

The head of the Bloc Against Islam Martin Konvička has been charged with inciting hatred toward a group of people based on their religious beliefs. Most recently, the anti-Islam activist attended a rally in support of President Milos Zeman appearing onstage alongside the president on Nov 17th. The charge, according to reports, is however not related to his speech last week, but to incendiary statements several years ago.

Martin Konvička, photo: CTK
Specific details in the case against Bloc Against Islam leader Martin Konvička have not been revealed, but his lawyer suggests it is tied to incendiary comments the activist made about Muslims in the years 2011–2014. In one instance, Konvička stated online that Muslims should be detained in concentration camps and in another, be ground into bone meal. Mr Konvička has been advised by his lawyer not to comment, he nevertheless did speak to Czech Radio’s flagship news station Radiožurnál. In a short interview, he said his words had been taken out of context and he compared his rhetoric to the kind of banter heard at football matches.

“Yes, you can’t see that the words were taken out of context from an online thread… ‘When we defeat you Sparta, we will grind you into sausage’ is a fairly common chant by football fans… Over around five years I have written hundreds of thousands of statements... But if you dug deep enough, about things said by anz of us, you’d find something.”

The spokesman for Bloc Against Islam, meanwhile, argued that what is a stake is freedom of speech. Others pointed to a tweet by the country’s justice minister Robert Pelikán on November 17, as evidence the case against Konvička is politically-motivated. In a tweet after the Bloc’s rally on November 17, the justice minister questioned why the police were not taking action against hate speech and cited a specific section of the Penal Code. Martin Konvička’s lawyer, Klára Samková said this:

Miloš Zeman, Martin Konvička on November 17, 2015, photo: Czech Television
“This is quite definitely on a political order. What is striking is that the police file is closed and no one can get a closer look.”

If the case proceeds and Mr Konvička is found guilty of inciting hatred against a group of people or the suppression of its rights and freedoms, he faces up to three years in jail. Meanwhile, Prague Castle has since distanced itself from the bloc leader. The president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told broadcaster Czech TV the president in no way shared the opinions expressed and said no such words had been used at the event attended by the head of state on November 17.