Czech lawmakers charging Prez Vaclav Klaus with treason

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 10:28

Prague: The Czech Republic`s conservative President Vaclav Klaus is facing high treason charges over his controversial amnesty of thousands of prison inmates and others, an unprecedented case that is tainting his final days in the post after a rocky decade.

Lawmakers in Parliament`s upper House, which is dominated by the leftwing opposition, voted on Monday to file charges at the Constitutional Court.

Marking the country`s 20th anniversary of independence on January 1, Klaus used a traditional tool of Czech presidents and ordered the release of more than 6,000 inmates serving short prison terms. His amnesty also halted court proceedings in several high-profile fraud cases on the grounds that he wanted to stop "endless criminal proceedings," infuriating many Czechs who are fed up with widespread corruption.

Klaus had already polarised the public during his two terms in the normally ceremonial post with his strident views questioning the EU, gay rights and global warming, but frustration with him has since mushroomed. About 73,000 Czechs have signed a petition backing the charges, while Klaus` portrait has been torn down in schools and offices across the country.

The anger has marred his legacy as a finance minister and prime minister who oversaw the Czech Republic`s tricky, post-communist transition to free markets in the 1990s.

Senators in the 81-seat house voted 38-30 to file charges, Senate speaker Milan Stech said.

The Constitutional Court is expected to deal with the case quickly but it is still likely to be weeks before a verdict comes. The worst punishment Klaus faces is the loss of the presidential job, which ends Thursday anyway, and he would be forbidden from ever running again.


First Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 10:26

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