Over two dozen Neo-Nazis detained for questioning

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On Sunday, a group of neo-Nazis gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Prague to protest against Israel's Middle East policy. Knives, truncheons, and gas pistols had to be confiscated by the police and 26 of the protesters were detained and taken in for questioning. Almost all of the demonstrators were members of the National Resistance organisation.

Guns holded during Sunday demonstration, photo: CTK
This far-right group recently sent a request to President Vaclav Klaus, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Czech armed forces, to be permitted to join foreign armed forces in order to be able to fight in a war against Israel. But just how strong is the neo-Nazi movement here in the Czech Republic? I spoke to Miroslav Mares, an expert on extremism, earlier to find out:

"The strongest ultra-right movement in the Czech Republic was in the 1990s. However, at the beginning of the new Millennium the Czech police and the governmental launched an offensive against the movement. Now, there is a new phenomenon where people are more active in illegal activities and have bigger experience with the fight against the system.

"The National resistance, known here as Narodni Odpor, is the most important and biggest neo-Nazi organisation in the Czech Republic. It has cells in various cities. It is oriented to militant demonstrations, neo-Nazi concerts of so-called 'white power' music, and other militant activities."

How many people are in this movement?

"I think there are about 500 people. The Czech neo-Nazi movement is bigger than this organisation. I think that there are about 2,000-3,000 people active in the movement."

Czech Television has reported that one of the detained men was a police officer from the Prague 10 district. The police have often been criticised for being to lax or too accepting of neo-Nazis. There have been cases when someone clearly did the Nazi salute and was not detained. Do you agree with this criticism? Would you say that the authorities have not done enough to clamp down on the neo-Nazi movement?

"I do not agree. This man was not a member of the state police but of the city police. I think that the Czech state police are anti-Nazi oriented. Some sympathisers could be police officers however not in the Czech security bodies."

How common are clashes between neo-Nazis and foreigners or members of the Jewish community here and what form do they take?

What kinds of people join the neo-Nazi movement here?

"They are mainly teenagers and people up to 26 years but their social backgrounds are quite different. There are people with a university education. However, the majority are people from the working class, people who are unemployed, and so on."

When compared to its neighbouring countries, especially Poland and Slovakia, how strong is the neo-Nazi movement here in the Czech Republic?

"I think the power of the movement is similar. But in Slovakia, the nationalists are stronger. These are people that are Slovak nationalists but do not have the pan-Arian or neo-Nazi orientation. Czech nationalists are also strong but the young neo-Nazi militant sub-culture is stronger in the Czech Republic than in Slovakia."