Extremist lawyer claims judicial expert biased because of Jewish background

Michal Mazel

Michal Mazel, a highly-respected judicial expert on extremism in the Czech Republic (whose testimony was crucial in such cases as the Vítkov arson attack and the dissolution of the rightwing Workers’ Party), has resigned after an objection was filed against his assessment in a current case. Lawyer Petr Kočí filed the objection on behalf of his client, a member of the extremist Workers’ Party for Social Justice, charged with inciting ethnic hatred, that Mr Mazel is biased because of his Jewish background. For the judicial expert the objection was the last straw; the move also shocked others, fuelling calls for the lawyer to be disbarred.

Michal Mazel
Czech judicial extremism expert Michal Mazel has called it quits – tired, he says, of reading threats against him on the internet by neo Nazis, at least one of whom claimed he should receive a black mamba for Chanukah. The expert – who was a key witness in the banning of the original Workers’ Party that legally morphed into the Workers’ Party for Social Justice – said enough was enough and pointed out that there are too few experts on extremism in the country, making the few specialists there are easy targets. In his view, judicial experts should also be replaced by committees on extremism and racism.

The last straw in his decision to quit was an objection put forward by lawyer Petr Kočí, defending 22-year-old extremist Lucie Šlégrová, claiming Mazel could not present an objective assessment on the grounds he was Jewish. That has since caused an uproar among many in the judiciary, including the chairman of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetský, who said he thought such lawyers should be struck from the directory. Still others compared the objection to the Nuremburg laws in Nazi Germany. High-profile lawyer and former justice minister Tomáš Sokol, who was involved in the case against the original Workers’ Party, told Czech Radio this:

Supporters of the Workers’ Party at the court in 2009,  Lucie Šlégrová in the center,  photo: Czech Television
“I do not think that race or ethnic background in and of themselves can be grounds for an objection claiming someone is biased – be they a judicial expert or even a judge. Whether we are talking about the Holocaust or National Socialism... just because you are Jewish doesn’t mean you will find it [more abhorrent]; both should be abhorrent to any sensitive and decent person.”

At the same time Mr Sokol explained that he understood Michal Mazel’s decision to quit as a judicial expert. While he himself had never felt threatened by extremists, the lawyer told Czech Radio that the pressure was clearly greater among specialists called on to visit similar territory case after case. Tomáš Sokol again:

“I wasn’t threatened but someone who has to work in this area on a regular basis, who registers remarks made against them, I do believe they feel the pressure. As a lawyer, though, it did not happen to me.”

The judge in the case against Ms Šlégrová, meanwhile, has said he will render a decision on the objection on Friday. The Czech Bar Association also has to make up its mind next week: whether or not launch disciplinary proceedings against her lawyer Petr Kočí whose objection shocked so many.