Czech president facing treason charges

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s conservative President Vaclav Klaus is facing high treason charges over his amnesty for thousands of 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 left-wing opposition, voted Monday to file charges at the Constitutional Court.

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


Klaus had already polarized 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.

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About 73,000 Czechs have signed a petition backing the charges, while Klaus’s portrait has been torn down in schools and offices across the country.

The anger his 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 to 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. The worst punishment Klaus faces is the loss of the presidential job, which ends Thursday anyway, and he would be forbidden from running again.


If found guilty, he would also lose about $5,000 a month from a state pension for former presidents, including a contribution to pay for his office.

Klaus’s opponents said their goal was not to punish him but to clarify rules for the future. ‘‘We want to know how far a president can go,’’ said Senator Miroslav Antl, one of those behind the charges.

‘‘The Senate was not in a position to be silent,’’ said his colleague Jiri Dienstbier, who will represent the Senate at the court.

Prime Minister Petr Necas, chairman of the conservative Civic Democratic Party founded by Klaus, condemned the move, calling it ‘‘an attack on our country’s reputation.’’

A group of 30 senators has already challenged Klaus’s decree at the Constitutional Court.


Klaus has previously said he doesn’t regret the amnesty and ‘‘would do it again in absolutely the same way.’’

Associated Press