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CZECHIA: The Czech judiciary questioned by the European Commission (Part II)

The Czech judiciary questioned by the European Commission (Part II)

Two Czech yoga teachers condemned to a prison term apply for asylum in their host country (Philippines) for alleged biased proceedings in Czechia

 

Part I can be read on the website of Human Rights Without Frontiers: https://hrwf.eu

 

HRWF (11.08.2021) – On 20 July, the European Commission (EC) published its 2021 Rule of Law Report in which a 22-page chapter dedicated to Czechia was critical about the judiciary and confirmed negative remarks already mentioned in 2020: lack of transparency in the process of selection of judges and lack of sufficient safeguards in disciplinary proceedings against judges.

 

A Czech spiritual teacher and his female co-worker living now in the Philippines since 2009 complain that because of their teachings about and practice of Tantric yoga in Czechia they have been victims of a miscarriage of justice in an incident qualified by the judiciary as a rape case. They have applied for asylum in their host country (Philippines) to avoid deportation to Czechia. Their request should be examined soon by a relevant court.

 

In 2015, Czechia was seriously preparing a forced extradition of the accused while the court proceedings were going on unabated in Czechia.

 

2015: Diplomatic attempts of deportation

 

On 13 February 2015, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Manila informed the Filippino authorities that they needed the cooperation of their police concerning “the case of two fugitives, including detailed police information about both of them and details about their stay at Philippines”.

 

On 6 March 2015, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Manila informed the Filipino authorities as follows:

 

“Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková are fugitives from the Czech Republic for multiple rapes

the passport of Jaroslav Dobeš had expired

the unexpired passport of Barbora Plášková should be considered invalid and will be cancelled by the issuing authority upon its delivery

Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková are therefore undocumented aliens and their presence in the Philippines poses a risk to public interest.”

 

On 12 March 2015, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in the Philippines issued a Summary Deportation Order against Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková on the initiative of the Czech Republic authorities represented by Czech Embassy in Manila.

 

On 14 April 2015, Barbora Plášková was arrested and detained at the Immigration Detention Center when she went to renew and process her travel documents and alien permit at local Bureau of Immigration in Surigao city. Three days after her detention, she filed an application for political asylum, claiming she was persecuted because of her beliefs and a victim of an arbitrary court decision.

 

On 15 May 2015, Jaroslav Dobeš was arrested around 7am in Dapa, Surigao del Norte and was taken to the Immigration Detention Center in Manila. The validity of his passport had come to an end on 11 August 2013. A few days later, he also applied for political asylum, claiming he was persecuted for his beliefs and a victim of an arbitrary court decision.

 

May 2015: High Court of Olomouc annuls Zlin Court decision in its entirety

 

On 21 May 2015, against the judgment of the Regional Court in Brno, the High Court in Olomouc heard, in a closed session, the appeals of Jaroslav Dobeš, Barbora Plášková and her mother.

 

After hearing their appeals, the High Court in Olomouc ruled that:

 

“According to § 258 section 1 letter b), c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure the judgment under appeal, based on the initiative of all filed appeals, is hereby annulled and revoked in its entirety.

 

According to § 259 section 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the case is returned to the court of first instance, to make a new decision.”

 

Court in Zlin restored international arrest warrant with fugitive status.

 

June – December 2015: Attempt to forcibly deport Jaroslav Dobeš during his asylum request

On the evening of 10 June 2015, there was an attempt to forcibly deport Jaroslav Dobeš back to the Czech Republic on a Turkish Airlines flight. The tentative extraction failed, Jaroslav Dobeš was handcuffed, beaten and later collapsed at the airport, forcing authorities to send him to the local medical facilities. Czech officials refused to assume any responsibility for the incident. 

 

Jaroslav Dobeš request for asylum was still pending at that time. It was rejected on 15 December 2015 on the basis of negative information provided by the Czech embassy and again on 1 August 2017. 

 

2018: High Court of Olomouc annuls again Zlin Court judgment in its entirety

 

After a long delay, on 26 January 2018, the Zlin Branch of Brno Regional Court ruled on the case of eight women and sentenced the two yoga teachers reducing the previous sentences (10 years for Jaroslav Dobeš and 9 years ½ for Barbora Plášková) to 7 years ½ for both of them. The alleged victims were not present and could not be interrogated.

 

Before the trial, the Czech TV aired an episode of a popular series in which they pictured defendants in a very negative way, hereby influencing public opinion.

 

In May 2018, the attorneys of the defendants appealed the decision again and tried to obtain a video-conferencing so that their clients can defend themselves but the request was rejected by the judge.

 

On 10 October 2018, on appeal, the High Court of Olomouc divided the case into two parts. About the alleged rape in spring 2007 of one woman (L.N.), the daughter of a senior police officer, it must be said that Jaroslav Dobeš was not any more in Czechia at that time. However, the court respectively sentenced him and Barbora Plášková to 5 years and 6 months and 5 years, plus financial compensation for damages (about 2400 EUR). The cases of the other six women were sent back to the Zlin branch of the Regional Court of Brno.

 

The defendants’ lawyers filed a recourse to the Supreme Court in the interest of establishing the ‘moral truth’ that they did not rape the other women but as of the end of July 2021, there had not been any decision yet.

 

Last proceedings and court decisions

 

In January 2019, the attorneys of Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic against the judgment of the High Court of Olomouc in the L.N. case.

 

On 27 March 2019, the Czech Supreme Court confirmed the appeal verdict of Olomouc in the L.N. case and the jail penalties.

 

Both accused filed a recourse with the Czech Constitutional Court, claiming that their right to defense had been violated. First, they were not served with proper notices of the trials in the Philippines. Second, their lawyers were never able to interrogate L.N and confront her with what they believed were her contradictions. The recourse was however rejected.

 

On 31 March 2020, the Zlín branch of the Regional Court of Brno found Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková guilty of rape or sexual abuse of another six women (the case of the seventh woman had been dropped for lack of evidence).

 

On 21 January 2021, the verdict was confirmed by the High Court of Olomouc on appeal. Procedural rules prevented the courts at this stage to impose further penalties on the two defendants. The appeal to the Supreme Court against this verdict is pending.

 

In February 2021, the movement’s bank accounts credited of about 200,000 EUR when they were frozen in 2010 were returned to the director of Poetrie School for lack of fraud evidence after 11 years of litigation.

 

On 4 June 2021, the Office of the President rejected their request of asylum for the third time.

 

Conclusion: to grant or not to grant asylum?

 

During the years they have spent in the Philippines, Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková have never violated the laws of their host country.

 

They have been detained in the Bagong Diwa Immigration Center in the Philippines since 2015 because the Czech authorities have refused to prolong the validity of their passports and have hereby made them undocumented in their host country.

 

The court in charge of the review of their applications for asylum will have to choose between two conflicting bodies of arguments:

 

The Czech authorities claim that

 

  • Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková carried out a rape on seven women in the framework of a ritual sexual intercourse rooted in Tantra yoga;
  • the female plaintiffs were not aware that Tantra yoga included such a sexual practice;
  • the plaintiffs were victims of mental manipulation;
  • Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková fled from Czechia to avoid an arrest and a sentence to a prison term.

According to these arguments, they are just fugitives sentenced for sexual abuse and they are not entitled to asylum. This has been the decision of the Department of Justice and the Office of the President in the Philippines.

 

The defendants claim that

 

  • there was a hostile climate in society, in the media and in the judiciary towards their esoteric movement because of anti-religious prejudices inherited from the Communist period;
  • their monastery had been set on fire by arsonists who were never identified and their lives had been threatened;
  • brainwashing theories have been dismissed by courts as non-scientific;
  • men and women participating in their workshops had been taught about gender-differentiated sex-based Tantric rituals;
  • several hundreds of women went through that sex-based Tantric ritual, voluntarily and fully aware of its nature, and never lodged a complaint;
  • some of the female plaintiffs chose to again go through the same sexual ritual despite their complaining of rape several years later;
  • the Czech judiciary misconstrued the Tantric ritual into a rape;
  • their lawyers complained they could not interrogate the plaintiffs and there were a number of procedural irregularities;
  • the number of plaintiffs was reduced by one for lack of evidence;
  • the accounts frozen in 2010 which were then credited with 200,000 EUR were returned to the director of the Poetrie School for lack of evidence about fraud accusations;
  • fabricated charges of human trafficking widely publicized in the media had to be dropped for lack of evidence but this did not put an end to the stigmatization.
  • they fear for their lives and have stayed in detention for more than six years under dreadful conditions.

 

The U.S. Department of State devoted several paragraphs to the case in its annual report on religious freedom, referring to the investigation of Human Rights Without Frontiers since its mission in Manila in 2016 until 2021.

 

The Department of Justice and the Office of the President in the Philippines should integrate the arguments of the defendants in their decision-making process but they should also consider the conclusions of Dr Massimo Introvigne closing a series of four analytical papers on this issue published in Bitter Winter on 2, 3, 4 and 5 August as follows:

 

“There is another reason why the Philippines should consider granting a religion-based asylum to Dobeš and Plášková. They have been in a detention center in the Philippines since 2015, and they have spent there more than the jail terms they have been sentenced to in the Czech Republic. However, the Czech authorities will not credit this detention period against the term they should serve in Czech jails (unlike in the German system, where this would be possible). This means that, if they are deported to the Czech Republic, they should serve another five and a half (for Jaroslav Dobeš) and five years (for Barbora Plášková) in jail, in addition to the more than six years they have already spent in a detention center in the Philippines, which would be another violation of their human rights.

 

For all these reasons, we believe that the Philippines should finally serve the cause of human rights and justice, also consider the humanitarian reasons involved, and grant asylum to Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková.”

 

A final point of conclusion by Human Rights Without Frontiers would be that in case of imprisonment in Czechia, the respective little children of the accused would be totally and definitely separated from their respective father and mother. Children’s rights should also be put on the balance.

 

A human solution for the children would be for the Filipino authorities to put an end to the detention of the two Czech citizens, who just happen to be undocumented, and prolong their residence permit on certain conditions while the litigation in Czechia has not come to an end.

 

The Czech judiciary is not infallible as the European Commission stressed in its last report on the rule of law in Czechia.

 

Photo: The two yoga teachers are kept in the Immigration Detention Center of Bagong Diwa in the Philippines. They were visited by Human Rights Without Frontiers and FOREF in 2016)

 





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CZECHIA: The Czech judiciary questioned by the European Commission (Part I)

The Czech judiciary questioned by the European Commission (Part I)

Two Czech yoga teachers condemned to a prison term apply for asylum in their host country (Philippines) for alleged biased proceedings in Czechia

HRWF (19.08.2021) – On 20 July, the European Commission (EC) published its 2021 Rule of Law Report in which a 22-page chapter dedicated to Czechia was critical about the judiciary and confirmed negative remarks already mentioned in 2020: lack of transparency in the process of selection of judges and lack of sufficient safeguards in disciplinary proceedings against judges.

The 2021 report reads: “Judges and prosecutors have been subject to critical statements by representatives of the Government. Representatives of the executive have on several occasions made critical remarks with respect to high-ranking judges and the Prosecution Service, calling in question their independence. As a reaction, representatives of the judiciary have issued statements expressing their concern and recalling the importance of judicial independence and public trust in the judiciary. On 14 May the Prosecutor General announced his resignation, indicating perceived pressure as one of the reasons.”

A Czech spiritual teacher and his female co-worker living now in the Philippines since 2009 complain that because of their teachings about and practice of Tantric yoga in Czechia they have been victims of a miscarriage of justice in an incident qualified by the judiciary as a rape case. They have applied for asylum in their host country (Philippines) to avoid deportation to Czechia. Their request should be examined soon by a relevant court.

 

The case of two yoga teachers

 

Jaroslav Dobeš was born in January 1971 in Czechoslovakia under the Communist regime. At the age of eighteen he recognized his discomfort with living in an atheistic society and wanted to escape.  He was a good alpinist and he fled through the mountains of Yugoslavia; his destination was Rome and the Vatican. In Italy, he studied the Christian Holy Scriptures with Catholic monks and intensively practiced advanced meditations on hermitages.

 

In 1992 for family reasons, he went back to his country which had since dispelled its’ communist regime. From there, his spiritual quest led him to India. In 1996, after studying at his guru in Haridwar, India, he received the tantric title of Baba.

 

In 1996, he went back to the Czech Republic to share his spiritual experience – comprised of meditation relaxation exercises and spiritual guidance – with his compatriots and established a small group of thirty followers. Over the next few years, the spiritual group experienced rapid growth and expansion. Jaroslav Dobeš – usually called Jara by his followers at that time – and his followers launched spiritual seminars and major festivals in various parts of the country: Zlin, Prague, and Opava, amongst other areas. They also established a monastery in Beskydy. The followers were mostly highly educated people: members of the legal profession, judges, professors, etc.

 

Since 2000 Jaroslav Dobeš has been on the radar of the Czech Anticult movement as the leader of a constantly growing spiritual group of solely Czech origin. By 2004, his followers were numbering in the thousands. Most of them recognized Jaroslav Dobeš as a spiritual master, enlightened mystic and respected authority.

 

In 2004, the spiritual group established the esoteric Poetrie School in Brno for seminars and practices on meditation, yoga, feng shui, astrology, acupuncture, telepathy, auric-healing and other spiritual rituals as well pilgrimages also open for a wider public. The spiritual teachings of Jaroslav Dobeš were described as a syncretic faith combining yoga, tantra, Kabbalah, Buddhism with a form of Christianity and ancient Egyptian teachings.

 

2004 – 2009: Media harassment, stigmatization, hate wave and emigration

 

In the aftermath of these developments, some social and governmental hostility became more pressing. There was then an attempt to register a charity for religious purposes but their application was rejected. Their monastery in Beskydy was set on fire by unidentified arsonists. Members of the group reported being subjected to police interrogation and harassment. The media also contributed to stigmatize the group and its leader.

 

After President Vaclav Havel’s presidency, Jaroslav Dobeš considered that the political and cultural climate was deteriorating in Czechia and in 2003 he decided to start a new life in Asia. He occasionally came back to his country for meetings with his followers and summer camps.

 

In spring 2007, he definitely left Czechia. At that time, a preliminary investigation had been initiated on the basis of the complaint of a woman who claimed to have been misled about the effects of the Tantric sexual ritual about which she had been previously informed and she had agreed to. In her statement to the police, she did not complain about any undue pressure or act of sexual violence or rape.

 

A few weeks days after his departure back to Asia, Jaroslav Dobeš was summoned by mail to appear at the Czech police station to be questioned for a preliminary investigation regarding accusations of “leading to a mistake” during a tantric treatment. He stayed in Nepal for two years and then left due to the worsening political situation.

 

Barbora Plášková gave her statement in April 2007 and was told that the complaint was without any foundation. She then left Czechia and was never contacted by the police again.

 

At this stage, it is important to stress that neither Jaroslav Dobeš nor Barbora Plášková had left Europe to avoid criminal prosecution contrary to what the Czech authorities have always declared.

 

In the meantime, the lawyer of the female plaintiff requalified the accusation as a rape.

 

On 14 May 2007, Jaroslav Dobeš was put on the Wanted List of the Czech police alledging his whereabouts were unknown.

 

In 2008, he led an international spiritual gathering of his followers in Bangkok, Thailand, where he had been living for several months. He also went to India, Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia to further deepen his spiritual knowledge. In the meantime, the Poetrie School in Czechia was forced to close.

 

On 18 February 2009, Filipino immigration authorities admitted the entry of Jaroslav Dobeš into the country and in March 2009, it was Barbara Plášková’s turn. On the island of Siargao he met his partner with whom he got a child a few years later.

 

It is only in October 2009 that Barbora Plášková was put on the Wanted List of the Czech police alleging her whereabouts were unknown.

 

 

2009-2012: Social and police harassment in Czechia

 

In 2009, a campaign against Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková was launched by former lecturers of the esoteric movement along with a Czech anti-cult movement. In the summer of that year, the special police unit for combating organized crime and mafia (UOOZ) became involved in the case in Czechia.

 

In 2010, the UOOZ investigation in Czechia gained impetus. Hundreds of former students of the Poetrie School and members alike were interrogated. In October, massive police raids and house searches took place. It is to be noted that this happened a week after a spiritual workshop attracting about 150-200 followers was held in Brno. This must have given the impression to the authorities that despite the closure of the Poetrie School and the departure of Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková, the movement was still alive and in good health. The police then found out that Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková were living in the Philippines.

 

On 19 October 2010, the premises of the movement and the homes of senior members in Czechia were raided by the police. The crackdowns were carried out in the early hours of the morning by elite police corps as if they were dealing with terrorists. Thirteen female mentors were detained. Computers, phones, databases were seized. The movement’s bank accounts with about 200,000 EUR were blocked and were only returned to the director of Poetrie School 11 years later, in 2021. The private accounts of Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková have been seized up to these days.

 

In 2011, Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková started to develop a spiritual sanctuary in the Philippines called „Project Comenius“ after the name of the well-known Moravian philosopher and theologian who in his time was persecuted on religious and political grounds. It was to be a safe haven for other Czech followers of Jaroslav Dobeš feeling harassed and persecuted in their own country. Some of his followers from Czechia built an assembly hall, meditation pools, prayer venues, and so on. They began to organize international seminars that attracted followers from around the world, including participants from Japan and the United States, amongst many other nationalities.

 

In January 2011, the UOOZ accused Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková of fraud and human trafficking but these accusations were later dropped. They were replaced by charges of multiple rapes allegedly committed between 2004 and 2006.

 

“Leaked” information from secret police investigation was massively publicized in Czech mass media – newspapers, television and radio. Reports were also taken over by the foreign press. Only some media initially adhered to the principle of neutrality and honored the presumption of innocence. Intensive media campaign lasted for several years and negatively influenced public opinion about Jaroslav Dobeš and the members of his spiritual group. His followers who said publicly to be members of the group went under strong pressure, exclusion and hostility in Czechia.

 

In January 2012, the Supreme State Attorney’s Office rejected the charges of human trafficking put forward by the UOOZ and the case was transferred to the ordinary police department in Zlin.

 

2012 – 2014: Court proceedings, sentences to heavy prison terms in absentia in Czechia

 

It is on 30 March 2012 that the prosecution against Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková started.

 

On 28 May 2012, the Zlin branch of the Regional Court of Brno issued an international arrest warrant against Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková for eight rapes allegedly committed between 2004 and 2006. They were labeled as fugitive with unknown whereabouts although the police knew they were living in the Philippines. This was the first official warrant issued for alleged rapes.

On 7 October 2014, Jaroslav Dobeš and Barbora Plášková were convicted by the Zlin branch of the Regional Court in Brno. They were sentenced in absentia, respectively to 10 and 9.5 years of imprisonment with strict regime. None of the alleged victims was present.

When a delegation of Human Rights Without Frontiers (Brussels) and FOREF (Vienna) visited them in detention in 2016, their living conditions were appalling and there was no medical service. In the past, the detention camp was also hit by riots. Since the COVID-19, the detainees have been totally isolated from the outside world: the center has been closed, there have been positive cases and visits have been cancelled.

 

Photo: The two yoga teachers are kept in the Immigration Detention Center of Bagong Diwa in the Philippines. They were visited by Human Rights Without Frontiers and FOREF in 2016)

 

(Part II to be published on 20 August)


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