Police deny brutality against IMF protesters

The police have categorically denied claims from anti-globalisation protesters that they were beaten and generally mistreated by Czech police following demonstrations against last week's IMF and World Bank meetings in Prague. But as Olga Szantova reports, foreign media continue to publish numerous allegations of police brutality. The following testimony is from a 20-year-old Czech student, quoted by the weekly Internet journal, Central Europe Review:

"As I entered the door to the police station, I saw .... one person kneeling .... and another person curled up lying on the floor. The police were beating them with truncheons, others were standing and looking on. People on the floor were moaning and crying, the policemen were shouting, there was a lot of noise. When I turned to the left beyond the corner, the iron bars leading to the staircase were open and before them a young man was kneeling on the floor, with his back to me. He had long brown hair, and he looked 'alternative'. I suppose he was a foreigner, because the police did not treat any of the Czechs as roughly as this. One policeman was holding his head from the back and another was holding his sleeve or his shoulder. The policemen twice threw the young man's head against the iron bars. Blood and saliva started running from the mouth of the young detainee. It sounded as though they had knocked out his teeth."

(From testimony by 20-year-old Josef Kudlík, held at the Ocelárská Street police station in Prague. Excerpt taken from Central Europe Review.)

That testimony is just one of many. And with new allegations cropping up all the time, the issue is very much alive. Groups of protestors have been gathering in front of Czech embassies in a number of countries and Amnesty International, as well as other international organisations, are calling for witnesses to come forward.

The Czech police have also announced that they would examine any concrete charges of brutality or serious mistreatment. But spokesman Jiri Suttner told the Czech News Agency that the claims were part of the campaign aimed at misinforming the general public and discrediting the police. Many of the claims, he said, had been submitted by e-mail and contained the same grammatical and other errors which allegedly showed that numerous reports had been written by the same person, but signed with different names.

Investigators are, however, looking into the charges, and the Ministry of Interior is playing an important role in the process. With hundreds of demonstrators arrested, dealing with all the allegations is going to be a lengthy process.

Author: Olga Szantová
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