The main opposition Social Democrats (ČSSD) are calling on President Václav Klaus to resign over his recent decisions to pardon convicted fraudsters and consider granting clemency to another with links to organized crime figures, the news server Aktuálně.cz reported Tuesday, citing sources from the center-left party’s deputies group.
ČSSD deputy chairman Lubomír Zaorálek subsequently called on the Czech president to release more detailed information on how he came to grant the pardons. “If not, further steps will be necessary,” the server quoted the former speaker of the lower house of Parliament as saying.
The most controversial pardons include the following cases (two from last week, and another that came to light last year):
- On Valentine’s Day, Klaus’ office published the names of 14 people he had pardoned, including Anna Benešová, a former Metropolitan University Prague (MUP) director convicted last year of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of trust, who is reportedly close to the president’s wife (some of whose conversations with First Lady Livia Klausová were reportedly recorded by investigators using wiretaps.)
- Klaus that day also signaled that he was considering granting clemency to a 15th person, Tomáš Malina, who is currently serving a five-year sentence involving the transfer of Kč 100 million worth of fuel from Prague-listed petrochemical firm Unipetrol that he instead used to buy shares in Russian oil firm Tatneft. Malina has been linked to the slain “boss of the Czech underworld” František Mrázek and Tomáš Pitr, who is awaiting extradition from Switzerland to face charges of tax evasion.
- Last October, the weekly Respekt reported that a former employee of the foreigners police in the Karlovy Vary region, Radka Kadlecová, sentenced for eliciting bribes from people seeking Czech residency permits boasted of having had her presidential pardon “bought” for her several years ago.
MP Zaorálek said the controversy over Klaus’ pardons was potentially far more serious than the alleged corruption scandal and “misguided attempt to muzzle the press” (as The Guardian put it) that forced his German counterpart, Christian Wulff, to resign as head of state on Friday (Feb. 17).
“What happened in connection with the resignation of the president of Germany is not as severe as what is happening in our country,” Zaorálek said, acknowledging that the ČSSD could only pressure Klaus to explain himself, not force him to, as the Constitution does not provide it the tools to do so, Aktuálně.cz said.
“Unfortunately, we are only in a position to encourage him, appeal to him, and we must show what we think about similar behavior of our president,” the ČSSD vice chairman said.