The Czech Police have filed charges of crimes against humanity against Adam Bartos, the leader of the extremist far-right National Democracy political party.
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Bartos is also charged with defamation, incitement to hatred, and genocide denial, the police announced on Friday. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.
Bartos, 36, was detained on Thursday morning, when police searched his home and several other sites in the Czech capital, seizing documents and other materials. He was released on Friday after questioning.
“Police investigators concluded that Mr. Bartos committed the criminal acts between May 2013 and April 2016. He was charged mainly over the content of books he published and other documents and public speeches in which he publicly and purposefully incited hatred towards people of Jewish ethnicity and faith,” the police said in a statement.
Shown in video footage of his arrest, Bartos said he considered the case “a politically motivated trial” and “another attempt to damage the only true opposition to the system.”
The Czech Republic’s Jewish community is closely following the case. “Let’s wait and see what comes out of this. He should not be allowed to assume the role of a political martyr,” Tomas Kraus, the executive director of the Federation of the Czech Jewish communities, told JTA.
“Bartos has regularly appeared in our annual reports on anti-Semitism. But he is a complicated figure: we knew him as an Israel supporter who was running about Prague waving the Israeli flag. I think he should maybe seek psychiatric assistance,” Kraus added.
In a separate case, a court in Jihlava, a city some 80 miles east of Prague, in March handed Bartos and another party official a suspended sentence of one year for supporting a 19th-century blood libel against the Jews.
Bartos, chairman of National Democracy, and party official Ladislav Zemanek, left a signed note last Easter at a memorial to Anezka Hruzova, a 19-year-old woman who was murdered in 1899. Bartos does not deny leaving the note. In a case that became one of Europe’s most notorious blood libel trials, Leopold Hilsner was sentenced to death for killing Hruzova, which attorneys suggested was part of a Jewish ritual. Hilsner was pardoned after 18 years in prison but never acquitted.
The note, signed by Bartos and Zemanek on behalf of the National Democracy party, said the murder “united the Czech nation and showed the urgent need to solve the Jewish question. The Jewish question has not been satisfactorily dealt with to this day.”
In addition, at an anti-Islam and anti-refugee rally in Prague in March, Bartos was briefly detained by police after arguing Czech leaders should be given “ultimate penalty” for what he described as a “treasonous” approach to migrants.