Interview with an activist detained during Operation Fenix

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Tomas Z. describes himself as an ecological activist from Olomouc region. His most “hardcore terrorist actions” include guerilla gardening ( he planted couple of plants to other person’s land without their consent) and unconventional creation of cyclepath. On April 28th he was one of eleven people detained by Counter Organised Crime Unit of the Czech Police (UOOZ) during the undercover operation called Fenix. The police is convinced that 30 year old activist is one of the leaders of Network of Revolutionary Cells (SRB). According to police, SRB supposedly planned to attack trains transporting either military equipment or Hyundai cars with Molotov cocktails. Detention of Tomas Z. was justified with his alleged connection to destroyed police car in the city of Litvinov. Tomas Z. proclaimed this allegation to be nonsense and absurd as well as his connection with SRB. During incriminated period he was not living in the Czech Republic and police was most likely aware of that. Following interview will shed the light on practises of police which seem to be filled with fabricated pre-requisitions for the detention, at least in his case. These practises are commonly employed by police in “war against terror” around the world and now successfully practised in Czech national security services.


Can you disclose details regarding your detention?
Few officers in plain clothes detained me from the flat of my girlfriend but I think they had no rights to do so. I was handcuffed and taken to my house. All together there must have been more than 10 police personnel, because we departed in three fully occupied civilian cars. When arrived to my house there was three police vans full of police armoured with automatic weapons ready and waiting. I was taken to a rented land beside (rented by police for this occasion) and there I was shown the search warrant for my house and surrounding land. Police than started with the search, apparently looking for explosives, weapons and materials connected with anarchist movement. The special dog was used (trained for explosives search) and whole search took several hours but nothing has been found because I have never had anything like that in my possession.

Their other focus was aimed on electronic data carriers. Flash drives, camera, laptop and SIM cards were confiscated. I did not try to resist as I have been told that resistance is useless because they have a power to confiscate my belongings anyway.

So the police operation you describe was only because of you?
Yes, only because of me. My personal estimation for the expenses of my detention was tens of thousands Czech Crowns (thousands of £, $, €…) and documents I received after the search confirmed that. During my detention 24 heavy armored cops and 20 other police were employed and all this just because of one person.

Were you detained the same day as all other activists during the Operation Fenix?
I was not aware of that at first, but when I overheard one police officer saying to another that “We are on TV already” I figured out quickly this must have been some extensive nation-wide operation. After the house search I was transferred to police station Prague-Bartolomejska where I was kept handcuffed all the time my hands tied to my body so I felt like Hannibal Lecter. They took my DNA sample, fingerprints and photograph and then informal interrogation followed where police tried to force me to testify against myself which I refused.

Interrogation ended around midnight. Police detained me before 11am and the whole process took quite a long time. I was tired and hungry. They gave me eight pieces of bread in whole day. In the protocol I repeatedly stated that I will give my testimony only after consultation with legal representative and this I signed. After the interrogation ended I was moved to Prague-Pankrac prison and placed to detention cell where I finally got a chance to get some rest and sleep.

In the morning I was transfered to Prague-Zbraslav police station for body odours scan and then returned to Prague-Bartolomejska for another round of this time “official” interrogations. The police placed me in the room filled with confiscated belongings. The interrogation was carried in the atmosphere of fear and disrespect by three masked possibly police officers. After a while my interrogators realized I am not going to testify prior consulting legal representative and so I was finally released without being charged and even apologized. The police returned returned some of my confiscated personal belongings (ID, wallet and money) and told me to get home all by my self, which in my case was 250km away. All my other confiscated belongings such as flash drives, camera and laptop were kept for further investigation. Those things are my “tools of trade” for work and education so I was practically prevented from continuing with my work. The police has not come back to me since then so I am not sure if I will ever see my stuff again.

Do you have any idea why you were under police scrutiny?
I was one of the few people participating on GreenAction, which was information portal dedicated to ecological and social activism but it has not been active for couple of months now. GreenAction published press release regarding destruction of the police car. The press release was sent to GreenAction by e-mail and lately published accompanied by commentary where the text was discussed. In about two weeks later GreenAction wrote authorial article dissociating GreenAction from the whole action. The statement of Green Action disassociation with anything published by third parties and that all published information are for educational purposes was present on the web all the time.

So in the end you were not charged at all?
The police tried to prove that I was a member of The Network of Revolutionary Cells (SRB) explicitly which was explicitly stated in their documents. They said I was a member of some collective body or command structure of this supposed organization and that I planned and approved the attacks and the court order for home search contained such information as well. I was also suspect in the case of police car destruction that took place in town of Litvinov in 2014. In this case police had to lie to a court. In the time of the event I lived in the UK over a long term period and police must have know that I was not in the Czech Republic at that time. During my interrogation, police officer had a print of my e-mail communication with my friend. From that was easy enough to conclude that I could not have be responsible for the attack. They justified the home search by looking for evidence that could directly connect me with the attack. Police gave a prosecutor selective and incorrect information so the operation will happen no matter what.

How is it even possible that Prague 5 district court granted a permission to the prosecutor in to allow a home search?
They just proceeded based on the information given by police, so the police have been a real judge in this case real judge by my opinion.

From what you are saying it follows that police connected you with the case only on the fact that GreenAction published SRB press release. But yet the same document was published on different websites?
I think that SRB press release was published on five different websites, perhaps even more and I can logically imagine that police went after people that could be tracked down easily from those websites and I count myself to one of them. I did not kept my involvement with GreenAction in secret.

Do you have any connection with other people detained during operation Fenix?
I don’t know the detainees. I had no idea that people who are being investigated for planning terrorist attack even existed. I was aware of VAP (Voice Of Anarchopacifism) existence, but I don’t know anyone personally nor I have any contacts with any of them.

What other information do you think Czech Police knows about you?
Police provided some clearly made-up information such as that I live in a “squat” which is a nonsense. I live in legally rented place and this information can be easily tracked down especially for police. Another questionable information was the allegation of me being “a member of one not named militant organisation in Olomouc area” which is doubtful information on its own. The main purpose of this disinformation only served them to get a search warrant.

So in this regard you have a clean conscience?
I draw antennas to politicians on billboards (popular political protest act in the Czech Republic, especially in Olomouc area, to depict politicians as aliens) and to support Roman Smetana (individual who started drawing the antennas and than served 3 months sentence as consequence of his action). I participated in guerilla gardening actions and at night I draw cycle path with traffic labeling paint. The cycle path will be most likely legalized anyway as police do not stop and fine cyclists there any more. The whole action was promoted as “fairy-tale beings” activity aiming to improve life of people in Olomouc city by the means of positive direct action. The court order also mentioned me as leader of infamous “Fairy-Tale Beings Club”.

Such activities are now being labelled by police as terrorist conspiracy?
Probably yes.

How do you perceive this whole Operation Fenix against left wing activists?
In my opinion, the whole Operation is just detention of people at random to gather information and the police do not hesitate to restrict the rights of many people to get it. Although the detainees do not necessarily have to have any information at all, like in my case. I have absolutely no idea who stands behind SRB and I am not even sure of its existence.

So, in your eyes, did the police operation lose its legitimacy?
In my eyes the whole Operation Fenix has been absolute waste of tax payers’ money. According to information provided by police, damage on the police car was at maximum several tens of thousands Czech crowns. However expenses of the police on surveillance of couple of web masters are about 10 times higher. From what I have heard during the interrogations I have been monitored by police for at least ten months, so I can imagine the expenses not being low. Police loses its trustworthiness and only pisses people off. The possible number of people who would be willing to burn police car as and act of revenge could just increase, as they will see no justice anywhere or apologies either. I think this could potentially lead to spiral of destroyed police cars and mass detentions of innocent people.

How do you regard the most serious charge in this cause – preparation of attack on military train or Hyundai carrier train?
In the police documents I got hold it is stated that the SRB supposed to commit the action during October or November (2014). However such attack was not carried out and police also did not mention any attempt to stop it and all of a sudden, couple of months after this “planned terrorist attack” they say was suppose to happen, the police launched nation wide operation with intention to catch alleged “terrorists”. Police at least tried to use half a year old wire tapes and charge someone since they did not really have any other evidence. They have to at least justify the whole Operation Fenix in the eyes of the public after all but media present the whole situation as the police prevented terrorist act to happen. In Brno police claimed to even found an unspecified explosive device which also might suggest that without police operation there could have been “terrorist” attack. The charges appear to be absurd to me and I would be surprised if anyone to be found guilty e. The example of charged for not preventing attack (as it happened in few cases) I would compare to a situation when someone would mention punching politician and I would hear that and do not report it to the authorities.

Do you think that other charges are build on a sand?
I indeed can not say that with a certainty but I can base my thoughts on what I have read in search warrant document and from information provided by media. The alleged bomb attack was not carried out, but it supposed to be discussed at so-called “conspirational flat”. The question is why the police did not do anything in October or November 2014 of last year but they acted half a year later? I consider that all very much weird, however I indeed cannot know what police bases its actions on, so I cannot judge this objectively.

How do you regard timing of the Operation? Couple of days after operation Fenix police for example harshly repressed anti-nazi demonstration in Brno or very soon after they launched fairly inadequate operation to evict social space Cibulka (legally rented property perceived as a squat by many).
In the annual report of Ministry of Interior on Extremism (2013/2014) informed that left wing scene is on rise while right wing declining. Maybe it is to try to preventively punish anarchist movement and by doing so to control concurrent status quo. I remember some years ago Austrian animal rights activists were detained and placed in custody for a long time and all of them were released without any charges but by confiscation of all their materials police has successfully prevented them to be active for many years. The same situation happened four years ago in connection to czech neo-nazi movement. There were plenty of racially motivated criminal acts, but the ones who were punished were individuals placing stickers of National Resistance (note – a Czech neo-nazi organisation) or just talking big on the internet and I am the last one to advocate or defend neo-nazis.

Why do you think you were watched by police since July 2014?
In that time there was an announcement in the media about Counter Organised Crime Unit (UOOZ) taking over cases connected with direct actions regarding fur farms and destroyed police cars. The GreenAction published press releases about some of these actions and I was the easy person to track down as a co-creator of the GreenAction. I had the feeling that police may try go after people contributing to such websites informing about this kind of direct actions as there is traditionally no medial coverage of such events. It was clear to me that police could and will try to find people who participated in such activities and that I could be under surveillance as well, although I have no connection to any of those action except my intention to inform. The progress in informational technologies has made police surveillance today very easy to arrange and this was confirmed also during my interrogation. The police was aware and knew a lot about my personal life and intimate relationships. Some details about my life were known not only to police officers who interrogated me, but also to the others. They had to keep an eye on my e-mail communication and phone at the same time. Police large resources for surveillance on disposal and recently police requested extra budget increase of 10 milliard Czech Crowns (~ £ 260 million, 356 million € or 400 million $). Police has disproportionate legal options and financial resources when compared to anarchist or any other left political movement. If they need permission of court they simply make up an information, like in my case and if they are wrong or act unlawfully there are hardly any consequences. The power of police is just excessively unlimited and large.

Do you have any option how to protect yourself against such practices?
I do not know yet. I wrote to League of Human Rights and Ombudsman but have no idea whether they will be interested, and I know that alone I do not have enough financial resources to pay for legal representation with whom I could effectively defend myself and achieve at least an apology, return of my belongings and some sort of financial compensation.

Do you think that whole police fabrication of alleged terrorist group Network of Revolutionary Cells can be sustained? Do you think some of the detained will eventually end up in court?
Eleven people were originally detained and six were charged, so at least five were detained questionably. Those who were detained never put in practise for what they were charged with. A person in Brno was charged with illegal possession of weapon but not with terrorism, so there is probably no link between those events. All I can see is at least five innocent people being assaulted, kidnapped and robbed by armed organised group called Counter Organised Crime Unit.