Change of guard at High State Attorney’s Office in Prague in drawn-out battle for control of decisive post

Vlastimil Rampula, photo: CTK

The change of guard at the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague has sent reverberations across the political spectrum and has raised concerns regarding the independence of the Czech judiciary. Vlastimil Rampula, Prague Chief Prosecutor who was sacked last July on suspicion that he had been holding up key corruption investigations returned in triumph on Wednesday to reclaim his post after the Prague Municipal Court ruled that his dismissal was not sufficiently justified.

Vlastimil Rampula, photo: CTK
The ruling of the Prague Municipal Court has once again made Vlastimil Rampula one of the most powerful figures in the Czech judiciary. His superior Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman clearly continues to mistrust him and inside sources say is looking for ways to get him dismissed for good.

However that has not stopped Mr. Rampula from getting back to work and quickly regaining lost ground. His old deputy Libor Grygárek, who avoided dismissal over ties to a lobbyist by falling ill, miraculously recovered and reported for work on Wednesday.

At the centre of attention is now an in-depth probe which the provisional chief prosecutor Stanislav Mečl ordered: a probe into the work of the High State Attorney’s Office in high-profile cases of corruption. Back on the job, Mr. Rampula said that since it had been ordered he would let it run its course.

Stanislav Mečl
“It was ordered and it will be undertaken as planned. If any failings come to light then I will consider the gravity of these failings and take respective measures.”

Part of the investigation has already been concluded and according to Thursday’s edition of Mladá fronta Dnes and Lidové noviny, inspectors uncovered a number of serious lapses. On his last day in the post the office’s provisional boss Stanislav Mečl confirmed that certain failings were uncovered, but it will now be up to the reinstated Vlastimil Rampula to summarize and asses the probe’s findings.

More factors are at play in this particular battle for power. Mr. Rampula’s return has undermined the position of Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil who sacked him six months ago and there is speculation that the junior Public Affairs Party is striving to gain control of this particular portfolio, a claim its leaders have heatedly denied.

Jiří Pospíšil
Meanwhile, the opposition Social Democrats and the Czech branch of the international watchdog Transparency are ringing alarm bells and saying that Mr. Rampula’s return to office will seriously undermine the credibility of the Czech judiciary.

The prime minister is expected to make a statement on the matter on Friday and the justice minister is reportedly considering a cassation appeal against the court verdict. Everything points to the fact that the dispute over who should lead the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague is far from over.