Day: September 27, 2006

800 Former Communist Agents in Czech Police

Again via Radio Prague:

One of the steps taken by the Czech Republic to come to terms with its communist past were so-called ‘lustrace’, or screening laws. They were meant to prevent former communist secret agents and other people associated with the former regime from taking government and senior civil service posts. But it appears that some former secret police, or StB, agents have managed to slip through the net. It has just emerged there are far more former agents in the police than previously believed – 800 rather than a few dozen.

Read the whole of Dita Asiedu’s report here.

Oslo-Prague Link – II

Via Radio Prague (Rob Cameron):

It is difficult to know for certain, but it does seem the massive security operation currently in place in Prague is the result of arrests made last week in Norway. Four people were arrested by the Norwegian police on September 19th, accused of planning attacks on the Israeli and US embassies in Oslo. The Czech newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes claimed on Tuesday that one of them – a Norwegian citizen of Pakistani origin called Arfan Qadeer Bhatti – was in contact with an Albanian man by the name of Princ Dobrosi, who ran a Europe-wide drug business from Prague in the 1990s.

That certainly doesn’t sound like “the most serious threat ever faced by the Czech Republic” as the Czech authorities are claiming, and there must be more to it than that for the authorities to have reacted in this way. Whether Dobrosi was somehow involved in a plot to attack Jewish targets in Prague remains a matter of pure speculation. Neither Norwegian or Czech intelligence services will comment on the claims.

Hostage to Misfortune

Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.):

Hostage-taking still rife in Chechnya

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA – The practice of taking hostage the close relatives of members of armed guerrilla units still continues in Chechnya. On September 22 representatives of the law-enforcement agencies abducted from a house in the 8th precinct in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district a young man whose brother left in secret to join the guerrillas several months ago.

“About three months ago, when many of the republic’s residents, mainly young men, set off en masse to worship at the grave of the mother of Kunta-Hadji in Vedensky district (Kunta-Hadji Kishiyev, the founder of one of the Sufi movements in nineteenth century Chechnya, is one of Chechnya’s most revered ustazy, i.e., saints), three lads from our area also left there. But they didn’t return,” says 47-year-old Kheda, one of the residents of Grozny’s 8th precinct. “Then there was a rumour that they’d gone to join the guerrillas. The problems started after that.”

According to the woman, the father of one of the youths (she says that all three are aged between 18 and 19) began to receive “visits” from the members of various law-enforcement agencies. “Alkhazur Seriyev, the father of one of the boys who left, began to get regular visits from the FSB, the police, or whoever they were. They told him he had to find his son and get him back home. One of them even went so far as to call our precinct ‘a nest of Wahhabists’, though no more than a dozen families live there at present,” the woman says.

The law-enforcers simply ignored all of Alkhazur’s attempts to explain that he doesn’t know where his second son is, or how to go about looking for him. “Neither Ruslan (Alkhazur Seriyev’s son) nor the two other lads ever said that they wanted to go and join the guerrillas. Ruslan didn’t ask his father for permission, and the other two never said anything to their mothers about it (their fathers died several years ago at different times). There were no guerrillas in any of those three families, and no one can tell why they acted like this,” she says.

The law-enforcers’ repeated visits to Alkhazur Seriyev always came down to one thing – he must immediately find his son and get him back home. “They told him quite openly: “We don’t intend to go chasing your son in the mountains. If we come across him, we will shoot him and kill him at once. Go and look for him yourself, any way and anywhere you want, but get him back home. Otherwise it will be the worse for you,” Kheda says.

Through relatives and friends who live in the mountainous part of Southern Chechnya (where the guerrilla units are principally based), Alkhazur Seriyev attempted to make inquiries about his son. But in this he had no success.

Then the law-enforcers resorted to radical measures. At dawn on September 22, several men in camouflage uniform armed with automatic weapons broke into the Seriyevs’ house. Threatening physical violence, they forced Alkhazur Seriyev’s eldest son Ilyas to get into their vehicle and drove away with him in an unknown direction.

“We don’t understand: what does Ilyas have to do with it? His younger brother didn’t tell him about his plans, any more than he told his father. Who gave this kind of authority to the special services, the police and soldiers, to take the relatives of guerrillas hostage, or those who sympathize with them?” the woman says angrily. “After all, even during the Stalin era, in the years of the Second World War, there was the principle of ‘the son does not answer for the father’, and that went for other relatives, too. But there’s only one word for what is going on just now, and that’s terror.”

Officials at the Staropromyslovsky district police station where the relatives of the abducted Ilyas Seriyev have filed a complaint say that the local police did not take part in this abduction. They have accepted a complaint from Seriyev’s father about the abduction of his son and have promised to take steps to look for him. At the present time, nothing it is known of his location and further fate.

The practice of taking hostage the relatives of members of armed guerrilla units has been adopted quite widely in Chechnya during the present military campaign on the republic’s territory. Officials of different law-enforcement bodies have at various times taken hostage the relatives of Aslan Maskhadov, President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, as well as those of field commanders Shamil Basayev and Dokka Umarov (the present leader of the Chechen resistance). The former Ichkerian defence minister Magomed Khambiyev (now a member of the Moscow-backed Chechen parliament), “voluntarily” turned himself in to the authorities in March 2004 after law-enforcers seized and abducted about 40 of his relatives and close family.

Meanwhile, the Chechen historian and political analyst Murad Nashkhoyev considers that the practice of hostage-taking has its roots in the distant past. “This vicious practice was introduced by the tsarist generals after Russia began its active advance into the depths of the Caucasus. In those days it was the children of influential families who were taken hostage – they were called amanats. The tsarist administration thought this was the best way to secure the obedience of potential enemies of the regime. So I don’t see anything new in what’s being done now,” he says.

Translated by David McDuff.

Idomeneo Cancelled

The New York Times has a report on the cancellation of a production of Mozart’s Idomeneo by the Deutsche Oper Berlin:

A leading German opera house has canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, prompting a storm of protest here about what many see as the surrender of artistic freedom. In the scene that offended Muslims and led to security fears, a king places the severed heads of religious leaders on chairs. The Deutsche Oper Berlin said Tuesday that it had pulled “Idomeneo” from its fall schedule after the police warned of an “incalculable risk” to the performers and the audience. The company’s director, Kirsten Harms, said she regretted the decision but felt she had no choice. She said she was told in August that the police had received an anonymous threat, but she acted only after extensive deliberations. Political and cultural figures throughout Germany condemned the cancellation. Some said it recalled the decision of European newspapers not to reprint satirical cartoons about Muhammad, after their publication in Denmark generated a furor among Muslims.