President Miloš Zeman said in a television interview on Thursday he would
use his power to halt the possible prosecution of Prime Minister Andrej
Babiš if Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman were to invalidate a decision
by the Prague State Attorney’s Office to close the case involving the
prime minister and his family.
The president’s remarks aired on the same day the Prague State Attorney’s Office published a detailed explanation of its decision to halt a four-year-long investigation into suspected EU subsidy fraud by Mr Babiš.
Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman has three months in which he must either confirm or invalidate the decision.
Opposition politicians have denounced the president for attempting to influence the judiciary.The leader of the Civic Democrats, Petr Fiala, has suggested holding a meeting of opposition party leaders to formulate a joint stand on the matter ahead of Tuesday’s session of the lower house.
The Supreme State Attorney’s Office said the president’s words would not affect their work.
Hundreds of young people gathered on Prague’s Old Town Square and in many
other Czech towns and cities on Friday joining the international climate
change protests launched by the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
The student gathering then marched through the centre of Prague, marking the start of a week of events aiming to draw attention to the problem.
On Friday afternoon a festival For the Future will take place on Střelecký Island in Prague with live music and environment-related presentations and debates.
Political scientists say that if the president were to intervene and halt
the possible prosecution of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the move would
not affect the degree of support the prime minister enjoys.
Political scientist Lubomír Kopeček from Masaryk University in Brno says that Andrej Babiš’ supporters have ignored so many scandals surrounding the prime minister that the fact that he would have to countersign the halting of his own possible prosecution would make little difference.
Political scientist Petr Just from Prague’s Metropolitan University says the decision not to prosecute by the Prague State Attorney’s Office would work in the president's and prime minister’s favour in defending such an action.
Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček has said that any move by the president
to halt the possible prosecution of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš would be
inappropriate interference in the work of the judiciary and would violate
the principle that all citizens are equal before the law.
He did not comment on how the Social Democrats, a junior partner in the governing coalition, would respond to such a development.
Justice Minister Marie Benešová refused to comment on the president’s words or speculate about the possibility of such a thing happening.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has refused to speculate about whether he
would accept President Zeman’s gesture to halt his possible prosecution
if Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman were to invalidate the decision of
the Prague State Attorney’s Office.
If he were to accept such a solution it would mean that he himself would have to countersign the president’s order.
Besieged by journalists over the matter, Mr. Babiš said he was sorry the president had spoken as he did since it had sparked a storm of criticism based on mere speculation. “No crime was committed and I am confident I will not be charged,” he said.
The Czech Constitutional Court has rejected a German Catholic religious
order’s legal complaint over its failed bid to win control of Bouzov
Castle in Moravia.
The court rejected the German order’s claim to be a legal successor to the Order of Teutonic Knights, which before World War II owned the 14th century castle.
The Czech National Heritage Institute refused to hand the castle over within the church restitution process back in 2014, arguing the law did not apply to that particular property.
The Nazis seized Bouzov Castle during the war and the Czechoslovak state confiscated it under the post-war Beneš Decrees, before the Communist February 1948 coup, the start of the decisive period set under the church property restitution law.
The order had earlier announced it would exhaust all legal possibilities to win control of the castle, including filing a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The Czech government and the country's four largest commercial banks
signed a memorandum of cooperation on Thursday to create a National
Development Fund aimed at investing in projects in infrastructure,
education and healthcare.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) had proposed creating such a fund back to counter appeals by his government partner, the Social Democrats, to introduce a bank sector tax.
Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček (for ANO) said on Thursday that the Fund should be working by mid-2020 and have initial financing of 7 billion crowns.
Česká spořitelna (owned by Erste Group), Komerční banka (owned by Société Générale), CSOB (owned by KBC) and UniCredit’s Czech branch signed the memorandum to take part in the fund.
Mr Babiš said he expected other companies, not just banks, to join later.
A design by top Czech architect Eva Jiřičná for a high rise development
in Prague’s Žižkov district currently home to a former telecom building
has been rejected by local town hall councillors.
The final decision rests with the full Prague City Council. The site is located within what a Conservation Zone, where strict construction and renovation rules apply.
The conservation group Club for Ancient Prague had criticised the designs by Ms Jiřičná for three undulating high-rise apartment buildings, the largest of which would be over 100 metres high.