President’s chancellor under fire for alleged attempts to influence judiciary

10-01-2019

The president’s chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, tried to influence the decisions of judges in key courts, according to weekly Respekt, which cited a number of magistrates. Mr. Mynář has released a statement denying the allegation, insisting he merely informed judges of President Miloš Zeman’s opinion. However, legal experts have condemned his efforts as highly inappropriate.

Vratislav Mynář, photo: Marián VojtekVratislav Mynář, photo: Marián Vojtek Since becoming President Zeman’s chancellor in 2013, Vratislav Mynář has met with a number of controversies, including being denied security clearance.

Now he is facing another storm after the weekly magazine Respekt published an investigative article this week quoting several judges from some of the country’s highest courts, who claim that he contacted them in order to find out information on cases and advise them on how to decide.

The reported meetings included Prague Castle trying to get the Constitutional Court to force a lower tribunal to release confiscated documents and cancel the sanctioned search on the premises of the presidents Lány residence. This was after Miloš Balák, a man whom Mr. Mynář named the head of the Lány Forestry Administration without a selection procedure, was prosecuted for manipulating tenders relating to its upkeep.

Other instances of possible influencing attempts relate to political matters in the interests of the Office of the President.

Ondřej Kundra, one of the authors of the article, says that there is no way of knowing how many judges Mr. Mynář actually tried to influence this way.

“We published information about four judges and five different cases. Some of those judges were telling us something so that we could quote them. The problem is that perhaps there were more cases than we were writing about. Perhaps Mr. Mynář contacted more of them and we do not know about it.”

On Wednesday, the chancellor issued a statement calling the article the work of an “unobjective activist” and claimed he had merely relayed the opinions of his boss.

Ondřej Kundra, photo: Šárka Ševčíková / Czech RadioOndřej Kundra, photo: Šárka Ševčíková / Czech Radio “While exercising my function I speak to judges, politicians, ministers as well as directors of state and private companies or institutions. With the knowledge of the president, I introduce them to the president’s views, attitudes and actions in relevant matters.”

Mr. Kundra says that thus far, these are only the claims of the chancellor, as the president, on whose behalf Mr. Mynář claims to have acted, has not yet responded publicly.

Whether Mr. Mynář acted purely on behalf of Mr. Zeman or not, several legal experts have condemned the Castle’s behaviour, including former justice minister Daniela Kovářová.

“At the very least, it is inappropriate. It certainly will not have any influence on the decision making of the judges. Based on my experiences, I believe judges will take the hint and avoid meeting such persons, or at least be very careful when encountering them.”

10-01-2019