Police shelve case against communist MP

Marta Semelová, photo: Tomáš Adamec

The Brno police this week shelved a case against Communist Party MP Marta Semelová for highly-controversial statements about the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia and the 1950 show trial of Milada Horáková. Charges were filed by the NGO ProtiAlt, alleging that comments made by Semelová in February were a criminal offence - propagating hatred and intolerance.

Marta Semelová,  photo: Tomáš Adamec

I spoke with former anti-communist dissident Jan Urban for his take on the case and Ms Semelová as a controversial MP:

“She has insisted that there is nothing wrong with the North Korean regime, that there are famines in South Korea, and she adores Stalin. So regularly she either publishes or states in Parliament something ridiculous.”

Jan Urban,  photo: Czech Television
And the comments she made in February during a Czech Television interview – these led Dušan Makovský and his ProtiAlt NGO to seek a prosecution of Semelová. So what, in their view, was the foundation of this complaint?

“Because Mr. Makovský is a long-time critic of our anti-extremism laws. These laws are very tough and often used against Neo-Nazis, but on the other hand, they close both eyes with regards to the Communist Party, which is a legal party participating in our parliament. But if this anti-extremism law would be followed to the letter, then the Communist Party would have to be banned, or at the very least, Mrs. Semelová and her colleagues would have to be criminalised for what they say in Parliament, or in the media.”

Is that something you would favour? Because obviously the contrary view is that those like Ms. Semelová, or anyone else for that matter, have the right to say what they want, even though others may find what they say ridiculous. That she has the freedom of expression.

“You know, we made the mistake in 1989 of not at the very least forcing the Czech Communist Party to change its name. To try the same after a quarter of a century would be kind of funny. She has the right to freedom of expression, as anybody else. Some of the stuff she is saying is really painful, tasteless and ridiculous. But she is an elected politician and we have to deal with her being in politics.”

Photo: Dmitry Poliansky / freeimages
Is there anything you believe she has said that may be specifically criminal? Because obviously laws prevent the propagation of hatred.

“I would hesitate to use the word criminal. She is definitely low-taste and incorrect. But as I said, our anti-extremism laws are definitely creating a lack of balance between our attitudes and judgments over the Neo-Nazi scene and over communism. It is a malaise; it is a disease that Czech society has to deal with long-term, and we have thus far failed to do so.