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Czech artists punished for replacing presidential flag

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Prague, Sept 27 (CTK) – The Prague Municipal Court upheld on Wednesday suspended sentences imposed on members of the Zhotoven guerilla artistic group for hanging out red boxer shorts at Prague Castle, the presidential seat, in 2015 in protest against President Milos Zeman.

Two artists, Matej Hajek and David Hons, who did not appear in court on Wednesday, were given six-month suspended sentences with one-year probation. The third one, photographer and artist Filip Crhak, succumbed to the injuries he suffered in a motorbike in June and his prosecution was halted.

Moreover, the artists must pay 55,000 crowns for a damaged roof and 8,400 crowns for the presidential flag to the Prague Castle Administration.

The court upheld the verdict issued by the Prague 1 District court in June, but it rejected the state attorney’s appeal demanding a fine for the defendants, along with the suspended sentences.

The verdict has taken effect.

The state attorney originally demanded that the artists pay the full price of 33,000 crowns for the flag.

Prague Castle lawyer Marek Nespala, who also appealed the the verdict, insisted on the artists having harmed the Czech Republic, its statehood and privacy. He demanded 300,000 crowns for non-material damage. The district court concluded that he may claim it in civil proceedings, which the appeals court upheld.

Defence counsel Michal Pokorny said the imposition of a fine would be inappropriate since his clients had not intended to enrich themselves by their deed.

“Their motivation was the way the president’s office was being executed,” he said.

He compared the damage caused to the state privacy to a disclosure of classified information. “And the presidential flag was definitely not classified,” he added.

The Ztohoven members, disguised as chimney sweepers, hung out giant red boxer shorts on the roof of Prague Castle instead of the presidential flag on September 19, 2015, in protest against Zeman’s behaviour in office.

The group psoted a video on Facebook saying “the proper flag of a man who is not ashamed of anything finally flies above Prague Castle.” They particularly criticised Zeman for siding with dictatorial regimes, such as China and Russia, and his vulgar language.

Later, they announced they had cut the original presidential flag into pieces and distributed them among people.

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