The Czech police are getting ready for the upcoming NATO summit in Prague

The Czech police, photo: CTK

The upcoming NATO summit scheduled for November 21st to 22nd in Prague is expected to attract anti-globalization demonstrators from all over the world, including several radical groups. Wednesday's papers are full of speculation that far-left radicals such as the Italian organization Ya Basta are getting ready for violent clashes with the Czech police. So how are the police themselves getting ready? Alena Skodova reports:

The Czech police,  photo: CTK
According to the paper Mlada fronta Dnes the Czech police are acting on a tip from their colleagues in Italy, that Italian radicals will be coming by train on November 20th, a day before the summit opens. The police spokeswoman, Blanka Kosinova, told me that Czech police were well prepared for anti-NATO summit demonstrators:

"We expect some 10,000 to 12,000 anti-globalization demonstrators in Prague from the Czech Republic and foreign countries. International monitoring from similar events elsewhere in the world suggests that some 80 percent of them will be here to express their views and opinions, which is part and parcel of the democratic system. That's why Czech police will not be taking action against demonstrators unless they use inappropriate means of communication, such as violent attacks, damage to property or blocking public communications."

Mrs. Kosinova says there are fears that the remaining 15 to 20 percent of demonstrators could be extremists, deliberately seeking violent conflict with the police in order to mar the summit. Some 12, 000 police officers, joined by over 2 000 Czech soldiers, will be in the streets and are currently being trained in conflict management. First and foremost, there will be so-called distance-zones, guarded by armoured personnel carriers and other military equipment, and the police will be allowed to use tear-gas to keep the radicals away from the Congress Centre in Prague where the summit will take place. But there will also be strict measures at the Czech Republic's borders. Blanka Kosinova again:

"The measures on the state borders have been introduced under the law on the stay of foreigners on Czech territory. It enables the border police not to allow certain persons to cross the Czech border altogether. This concerns persons who could threaten the security of the state or disturb public order. Czech police has been building a database of suspicious persons, who in the past have got into conflict with the police during similar events in foreign countries. These persons will not be allowed across the borders under any circumstances."

When the World Bank and IMF meeting took place in Prague in September 2000, there were numerous complaints about how the Czech police handled the detained persons, allegedly using cruel methods during interrogations. In order to prevent the situation being repeated, 20 police stations throughout Prague have been selected, where detained demonstrators will be taken. All the stations will be equipped with cameras and independent observers will be given access, concluded Mrs. Kosinova.