President Miloš Zeman has indicated that the prime minster should resign over a graft scandal involving his chief-of- staff. Asked by media whether the center-right cabinet should continue in office, Mr. Zeman said that the charges against the prime minister’s close aide Jana Nagyová were “very serious” and appeared to be well founded. After being briefed on the case by the police president and Olomouc state attorney, I have come to the conclusion that the charges of abuse of office and corruption are based on sufficient evidence, the president said. The prime minister has come under increasing pressure to quit in the wake of an extensive anti-graft sweep in several government institutions. Seven people have been charged in connection with the affairs.
The opposition Social Democrats have urged the prime minister to act responsibly and to resign in the face of the growing scandal. Party deputy chair Michal Hašek said that every additional hour of procrastination was damaging the country’s reputation and undermining the country’s democracy. In connection with Tuesday’s no-confidence vote, Mr. Hašek said he hoped that at least some members of the ruling coalition would put the best interests of the state ahead of their own narrow party interests. The opposition needs 101 votes to bring down the government. The motion to dissolve Parliament and open the way for early elections would have to be supported by 120 deputies.
The head of the country’s military intelligence, General Milan Kovanda, reportedly thought he was acting in the interests of the Czech Republic when he took orders from the prime minister’s chief-of-staff to spy on three people. The general’s lawyer told journalists on Saturday that General Kovanda had merely acted as a solider used to taking orders and not questioning them. Police investigators revealed that Jana Nagyová, who is romantically linked to the prime minister, had the three persons followed for her own private reasons. The general was released on a court order.
The ruling coalition party TOP 09, which on Friday expressed support for the prime minister on the grounds that the police had failed to provide sufficient evidence in the case, has called an emergency meeting of its party leadership for Saturday evening. The move came following growing discontent with the party’s position on the matter and criticism of the prime minister. Party deputy-chair Miroslav Kalousek, said the situation was grave. There have been widespread reports that TOP 09 is preparing to hold talks on early elections with the opposition Social Democrats.
Jana Nagyová the prime minister’s chief-of-staff and by all accounts a central figure in the ongoing corruption scandal, has been refused bail. Nagyová is accused of abuse of office and corruption and could face up to five years in prison. She will remain in custody in Ostrava. Her lawyer has appealed the verdict. The regional court in Ostrava likewise refused bail to former agriculture minister Ivan Fuksa, and his former deputy Roman Boček, former Civic Democrat MP Petr Tluchoř and the former head of military intelligence, General Ondřej Palenik.
Government officials, cultural figures and WWII veterans gathered at the Lidice memorial on Saturday for a commemorative ceremony marking the destruction of the village by the Nazis in 1942 in revenge for the assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich. All the men in Lidice were shot, women transported to concentration camps, children forcibly placed in German families for re-education and the village itself was razed to the ground. Speaking at the ceremony, President Miloš Zeman warned against what he called creeping neo-Nazism and false nationalism, saying society must remain vigilant against the danger of history repeating itself.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Saturday apologized to the three persons who were spied on, on the orders of his chief-of-staff, including his wife Radka. The prime minister said he was unaware that such orders had been given and would personally never have allowed the country’s intelligence services to be abused in this manner. He expressed deep regret over the incident.
The head of the police’s organized crime unit Robert Šlachta said that the extensive police operation against graft involved hundreds of officers and had been going on for over a year and a half. He said that in addition to raids on government offices the police had raided 31 private homes and offices confiscating 120 to 150 million crowns in cash, sensitive documents and many kilograms of gold. The anti-graft operation involved politicians, government officials and lobbyists and the charges involve corruption, bribery, money-laundering and abuse of office.
Famous Czech actor Ivan Trojan has received the Outstanding Actor Award in the Mini-series category at the prestigious Monte-Carlo Television Festival. Mr. Trojan was given the award for his role in the HBO mini-series “The Burning Bush”, directed by Agnieszka Holland. The three-part TV movie, which focuses on the self-immolation of the student Jan Palach in Prague in 1969 premiered in the Czech Republic this January.
The leadership of the Civic Democratic Party met on Friday evening to discuss the current political crisis and decide on further steps the party will take. One of the deputy chairmen of the party, Petr Pospíšil, told reporters during a recess that he thinks the governing coalition is not in danger right now. Deputy chairman of the Civic Democratic association of Central Bohemia, Raduan Nwelati, said before the meeting that he feels that although Prime Minister Nečas has not committed any wrongdoings himself, he should take responsibility for the unlawful actions of his closest colleagues.
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