Prague, Czech Republic – During an interview with Barrandov TV station on Thursday, Czech President Milos Zeman said he could use his power to end the prosecution of Prime Minister Andrej Babis should the situation arise, the Czech News Agency reported.
Although Prague prosecutors have recently announced, at the dismay of opposition parties and civil rights activists, they would not prosecute the Czech Premier over the notorious so-called ‘Stork’s Nest’ affair, Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman still has three months to decide whether or not to invalidate this decision and prosecute the billionaire Prime Minister for EU subsidy fraud.
President Milos Zeman, who had previously said during the last presidential campaign that he would never interfere in the case, has now appeared to have changed course and claimed he could use his power to overrule Pavel Zeman’s decision should he decide to prosecute.
His comments drew the ire of the opposition and observers, who accused the head of state of blatant interference in the country’s judicial system and of undermining the public’s (already dented) trust in the independence of its judiciary.
Jan Hamacek, the deputy-Prime Minister and head of the junior coalition partner CSSD, clearly said such an action would be inappropriate and would contravene the rule of law and equal treatment of all citizens before the law.
Justice Minister Marie Benesova, a former advisor to President Zeman whose appointment by Andrej Babis days after Czech police recommended his indictment sparked mass protests throughout the country, refused to comment on the issue.
Analysts have long suspected Zeman and Babis of having struck a mutual protection and power-sharing pact, shielding the latter from judicial prosecution and enabling the former to increase his influence well beyond his limited constitutional powers.