Britons accuse Czech police

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The Independent Online

Britons arrested following last week's bloody anti-globalisation protests in Prague yesterday claimed they had nothing to do with the violence, and accused the Czech police of mistreating prisoners.

Britons arrested following last week's bloody anti-globalisation protests in Prague yesterday claimed they had nothing to do with the violence, and accused the Czech police of mistreating prisoners.

According to the Foreign Office, at least 26 Britons were among almost 900 people arrested after last Tuesday's riots, when protesters attacked police with Molotov cocktails and cobbles torn from the streets, and terrorised local residents. The protesters were trying to blockade the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

"I was taking part in a demonstration against the violence when they arrested me," claims Nick Hobbs, from Glasgow. "We were sitting on the floor, chanting 'No violence', when the police surrounded us and made a mass arrest."

There have been many claims of wrongful arrest. Most of the mass arrests took place late on Tuesday and on Wednesday, after the violence had ended.

Mr Hobbs was arrested on Tuesday afternoon and held for three days without charge. He says police never told him the reason he was arrested. None of the Britons detained are among only 20 people who have been formally charged in connection with the violence.

There have been several allegations of severe police beatings made by released protesters - all of them strongly denied by Czech police. Yesterday Shuki Tzarfati from Israel, sitting next to Mr Hobbs, claimed he had been systematically punched and kicked in the ribs for 30 minutes, so that he could not walk, and feared he had a broken rib. But his chest showed no signs of bruising.

Like many other released detainees, Ian Henderson from Aberdeen says he was not allowed to make a phone call to the outside world, and was denied access to a lawyer.

Mr Henderson accused British consular officials of being slow to ask for arrested Britons' release, and not taking allegations of police mistreatment seriously. All the British detainees have been released. Some were deported directly to Germany; others, like Mr Henderson, were allowed to return to Prague for their belongings and given until midnight yesterday to leave the country.

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