A new film called The Trap, which is due to premiere on Czech Television this Sunday, tells the tragic fate of the great Czech film and theatre actress Jiřina Štepničková who fell into a trap set by the communist secret police in the 1950s and was sentenced to 15 years in jail for attempting to flee the country with her four-year-old son. The communist hysteria surrounding the process was so great that many of Štepničková’s colleague actors and actresses signed a petition for her to be put to death for treason.
Former justice minister and the current government commissioner for human
rights, Helena Válková, has rejected allegations that she had defended
laws against dissidents during the Communist regime and collaborated in her
professional work with the former state prosecutor Josef Urválek, who was
responsible for securing the death sentences of Milada Horáková, Rudolf
Slánský and others in 1950s Communist show trials.
Válková told journalists that the claims made by the news site info.cz were untruthful and insulting and that she planned to sue the site for slander.
At the same time Ms. Válková, whom the president nominated for the position of Ombudswoman, told Czech Television she had not been aware of Urvalek’s past when she worked with him.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček have both said the allegations are extremely serious and that they are awaiting an explanation from Mrs. Válková.
Former minister of justice and current government commissioner for human
rights, Helena Válková, defended laws against dissidents during the
Communist regime, the news site info.cz reported on Thursday.
At the turn of the 1970s and 80s, Mrs Válková published a series of articles in which she defended measures used by the Communist regime to restrict the rights of its opponents, the website writes.
It also says she collaborated on writing one of her articles with the state prosecutor Josef Urválek, who was responsible for securing the death sentences of Milada Horáková, Rudolf Slánský and others in 1950s Communist show trials.
Mrs Válková, whom President Miloš Zeman recently proposed for the post of the Czech Republic’s ombudswoman, denied any wrongdoing, saying the article was insulting and untruthful.
The Czech Republic looks set to officially declare August 21 a state
holiday, in memory of victims of the Warsaw Pact troop invasion of
Czechoslovakia in 1968 and subsequent Soviet-led occupation.
Senators voted overwhelmingly on Friday to amend legislation to create the new holiday.
In total, 90 lawmakers from all parliamentary groups apart from the Communist Party voted in favour of the bill, which must be signed by President Miloš Zeman in order to become law.
According to the bill, the night of August 20-21, 1968, was among of the most tragic times in modern Czechoslovak history.
The Czech police’s Office for the Documentation of the Crimes of
Communism have initiated the prosecution of three senior figures from the
pre-1989 Communist regime. One-time Communist Party general secretary
Miloš Jakeš, former prime minister Lubomír Štrougal and ex-interior
minister Vratislav Vajnar are accused of abuse of office in connection with
the use of firearms on the borders of the then Czechoslovakia, a
representative of the Prague 1 state attorney’s office, Jan Lelek, said
The three top Communists were aware the border patrol service were using guns to shoot people crossing the border without authorisation but did nothing to stop them, Mr. Lelek said.
The Office for the Documentation of the Crimes of Communism said that because of the inaction of the three officials between 1976 and 1989 nine people were either shot dead or killed by dogs while attempting to cross the border into the West; at least seven others were injured.
The lower house of Parliament has passed a bill declaring August 21st a day
in memory of the victims of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in
1968. The bill was supported by 130 out of 137 deputies present.
The Communist Party MPs present failed to suport the bill, with the exception of Jiří Dolejš who said he was voting according to his conscience and regarded the invasion as „a terrible blow to the country“.
The bill will now go to the Senate for approval.
The Náchod district court has ruled that Pavel Wonka, believed to be the
last Czech political prisoner to have died in prison under Communism, had
been illegally incarcerated.
His brother had filed a lawsuit to have him ‘rehabilitated’ and can now claim damages from the state over the unjustified imprisonment.
Following the verdict on Wednesday, Jiří Wonka told reporters that it was a moral victory and that he had not filed the lawsuit to get compensation.
Pavel Wonka was imprisoned in April 1988 for several weeks and died under unclear circumstances. He had initially been released due to bad health, but a judge sent him back to prison for another five months.
Wonka was posthumously awarded the Medal of Merit in 2013.
Prague councillors unanimously agreed on Monday to establish a Museum of
20th Century Memory that will focus on the history of non-free regimes in
the Czech lands. The city council is to put the proposal to a formal vote
on September 19.
A total of 30 civic associations and social organizations bringing together former political prisoners, educators and researchers had expressed support for setting up the new museum.
If approved, the museum’s board will likely include historian and writer Jiří Padevět, Post Bellum director Mikuláš Kroupa and historian Petr Blažek of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.
On Wednesday evening, thousands of people attended a protest march in
Prague initiated by Million Moments for Democracy, the organization behind
the largest demonstration in the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution
in 1989, which brought an estimated quarter of a million demonstrators to
Prague’s Letná plain in June. Organisers say the event was attended by
10,000 people and served as a reminder of the events of the Soviet invasion
in 1968, the brutal Communist crackdown on protesters in 1969 and as a
protest against the current prime minister and president.
Attendees met on Prague's Wenceslas Square in the evening hours before heading to Hradčany Square in front of Prague Castle.
The march was part of a wider string of demonstrations organized by the group this Wednesday. These were held in 93 sites across the country, including all of the Czech Republic’s major cities.