Court cancels ban on neo-Nazi march through Jewish quarter

Prague City Hall

Prague City Hall has seen a setback in its efforts to prevent a group of neo-Nazis from marching through Prague's Jewish Quarter on 10 November, the anniversary of the largest anti-Jewish pogrom in the Third Reich. The Prague Municipal Court has just cancelled a City Hall ban on the controversial planned march; however, officials are still hoping to block the far-right demonstration.

Prague City Hall banned a march organized by persons with close ties to a right-wing extremist group called Narodni Odpor, or National Resistance. The march is supposed to take place on 10th November which happens to be the 69th anniversary of the largest anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany, known as the Crystal Night. The organizers contested the City Hall's decision, and on Monday, the ban was revoked by the Prague Municipal Court whose vice-chairman Jan Ryba explains the reasons.

"I cannot give you the exact reasons because they have not been published and delivered to the respective parties. I can only deduce in the following way: when an administrative court cancels an administrative decision without a public hearing, the court does so, according to the court rules for procedural flaws. In this particular case, only one thing could have happened: the City Hall's decision was cancelled without a public hearing due to procedural flaws."

Allegedly, the right-wing activists want to march to protest Czech involvement in the occupation of Iraq. Jiri Wolf, the spokesman for the Prague Municipality, says the authorities believe the true purpose of the march is different which is precisely why the City Hall insists on the ban.

"According to our expert reports on the basis of which the ban was imposed, the march does have extremist features. In the justification of the ban, we said clearly that the announced purpose of the march is directed at promoting hatred and intolerance towards people because of their nationality, origin and religious faith. These are the main reasons why we banned it and why we will insist on the ban."

There is still time to revise the justification of the ban so that it cannot be successfully contested by the far-right grouping. In case this does not happen and the march does eventually take place, Jakub Roth, the vice-chairman of the Prague Jewish Community says they expect the authorities to prevent any possible clashes.

Jewish quarter
"We are cooperating closely with the city of Prague; we as the Jewish community of Prague fully rely on the ability of the Czech Republic and of Prague municipality to guarantee the safety and security of all its citizens. Jews all over the world celebrate Saturday as their holiday so even this Saturday there will be a religious convocation in the synagogues in Prague. As has previously been announced, there will be religious services held even in front of the synagogues in the Prague Jewish Quarter."

And does the Jewish Community expect a larger number of people to take part on that Saturday's worship, given the significance of the day?

"We always expect a large turn-out for days of worship from our members; this is an important day, and we expect that yes, many people will come. Again we rely on the authorities to make sure that no irresponsible events take place and we are and will be closely cooperating with them in this regard."