Anti-corruption watchdog concerned by dismissal of state prosecutor

Last week, the head of the State Prosecutor’s Office in Liberec was dismissed after criticizing the way his own institution worked. Adam Bašný claimed that Czech prosecutors had grossly mishandled the case of former deputy prime minister Jiří Čunek, who was acquitted on charges of fraud last year. Mr Bašný was sacked for a lack of professionalism when making the statements, but his dismissal has provoked outcry. On Tuesday, the head of the Czech branch of Transparency International, David Ondráčka, voiced his concern:

“In our view, this dismissal doesn’t make any sense, and it is something we have to protest against as it endangers the legality, efficiency, and quality of investigations into financial crime and corruption.”

The other side of the coin is that this Mr Bašný was working for the state and then at one of your events voiced his own personal views about the State Prosecution. Isn’t it right that he was dismissed for coming to one of your forums and criticizing the State Prosecution?

“Well the point is that you can accept the notion that if you work for the state then you have to be loyal at any cost and in every situation. However, in the situation when the basic principles of judicial independence are placed in danger, then in my view, it is completely correct to raise your voice and speak up. That is what Mr Bašný did at one of our conferences and he was consequently punished. That is why we raised our concern, we are trying to speak up and call the government to take action and investigate the matter.”

Earlier on when you were talking about the situation more generally in the Czech legal system, you said that it wasn’t rosy. What did you mean by that?

“In general, the Czech legal system is still being established and institutions are still not functioning necessarily all that perfectly. So that is what I meant about the situation not being all that rosy.

“However, what we are really fighting for is to increase the level of openness, the level of accountability, and the level of independence of the judiciary which is a basic condition for any investigation into financial crime and corruption. And these principles are simply now in danger and that is why we are raising our voice.”

You’ve said you are speaking out against this. How can you speak out against this? What are you doing to remedy the situation?

“There is no real legal remedy in my view, so it doesn’t make much sense to send a report to the police or to send some open letters to state prosecutors. All we can do now, in my view, is go public and call on the media to exert some pressure upon the Justice Ministry and the justice minister to actually rectify the current situation. And as a consequence, we hope that they will be responsive. They can no longer dismiss someone just for openly criticizing the situation.”