Many people have suffered social marginalization due to a media campaign against their belief system.
In Czech Republic, observation of Jaroslav Dobeš and his followers’ case revealed complexities that call for a thorough investigation on how it was handled by the Czech authorities.
Also, there is a need to address the remnants of totalitarian practices surfacing in this case. There is a certain risk that, if unaddressed, the case of Jaroslav Dobeš will be a dangerous precedent for a faulty political and governmental interference in the development of pluralism and fundamental freedoms, particularly in the field of conscience and belief.
Furthermore, the results of the observation stated that Czech society is prone to stigmatization and ostracism of those who choose to live differently from mainstream principles, as is the case of Jaroslav Dobeš’ followers, and that is by and large due to the inability of the Czech authorities to properly address and prevent human rights violations.
On October 19, 2010, between 6-7 a.m., police raided 12 houses and interrogated 13 people. In fact, the members of Poetrie have been subjected to warrantless arrests and searches and severe forms of psychological pressure resulting in physical disturbances, threats and intimidation by Czech police authorities, solely for the reason of their religious affiliation.
Police confiscated study materials about astrology, feng shui, yoga, books and booklets connected with Jaroslav Dobeš or Poetrie Institute, as well as private belongings of people (family pictures, personal diaries, etc). Many of the electronic devices, as computers, mobile phones were taken by the police. Policemen were insisting to find the lists with the name of the students. Also police was insisting to have details if there were any rituals, tantric liturgy, done together with Jaroslav Dobeš, involving sexual contact. Police was insisting to have the complete description of the tantric ritual, no matter how personal, intimate or sacred was for the investigated person (the investigated persons were actually just witnesses). Notably, Dobes and Plaskova’s previous conviction in absentia from October 2014 involving those alleged rape cases was already reversed in May 2015 and was found to be without sufficient basis by the High Court of Olomouch. Another more important detail is that the witnesses of the prosecutors, the 8 women so-called victims of rape, were not part of the court trial, the only evidence against Dobes and Plaskova was their declarations given initially to the police.
Although the police investigation was initially conducted under the accusation of human trafficking, this accusation however does not appear in the trial at all, proving to be just a media scam meant to tarnish the image of the group members.
Another consequence of the massive action of the police was a negative media campaign. In the years that followed, the total number of defamatory articles published to date are 376 (from which negative evaluation in the public printed press 108, on television 18, and the rest were on radio and internet).
Several people described their experiences as remnants from the totalitarian regime. Soteria International is well aware of how such remnants interfere in other former communist countries, striving to cultivate a democratic approach, based in human rights, to police work at all levels.
Soteria International recognises patterns from this case in others dealing with what in the given society is considered a “sect”. Authorities are tempted to follow media and a socially accepted discrimination of a certain group, which is generally perceived as strange or subversive. Within the EU there is a continuous fight to let go of the “sect” stigma of smaller religious groups, based and fuelled by popular intolerance and ignorance.
From the observations we find that also in this case we are dealing with a structural discrimination against individuals who practice their fundamental right of religious freedom.