Communist MP who shocked nation with outrageous statements need not apologize

Marta Semelová, photo: CTK

Communist Party MP Marta Semelová, who shocked many with her comments on the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia and the judicial murder of Milada Horáková in the 1950s, will not have to apologize for her words. A Prague district court dismissed the case against her on Wednesday, saying that the complaint was legally unsubstantiated.

Marta Semelová,  photo: CTK
Marta Semelová, one of the most outspoken members of the communist party, enjoyed her moment of triumph in court on Wednesday, smirking at her critics in the packed courtroom, many of whom were ordered out after calling out “shame” and otherwise protesting against the ruling. Semelová, who said in an interview on Czech Television that the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia had in reality been “international assistance” and who cast doubt over whether Milada Horáková’s confession in the 1950s show trial had been enforced, told Czech Television shortly after the verdict that she had expected no less.

“I stand fully by my words. I think this court case against me was completely absurd."

Michal Kincl,  photo: CTK
Although Semelová presented the case as an attack against freedom of speech, the judge made it quite clear that the law left him no other option but to dismiss the case. The complaint against Semelová was filed by lawyer and politician Michal Kincl, who said that the Communist MPs words had offended him as a citizen and raised fears of a possible return to power of a criminal regime. He asked for a written apology and that Semelová publicly withdraw her words.

The judge said that although he wholeheartedly disagreed with the statements made by the MP, they could not be qualified as having damaged Kincl’s interests or infringed on his rights. He ended his speech by saying that the public could make its own conclusions on Semelová’s opinions.

“It is good that the defendant says these things out aloud so that we know what her views are and that she thereby reminds us of the times the return of which the complainant fears.”

Michal Kincl appealed the verdict almost immediately although he told journalists he understood the judge’s reasoning. He said he valued the fact that Judge Freibert had openly stated that he disagreed with Semelová’s views and had made it clear that the verdict should not be regarded as her moral victory.

Milada Horáková,  photo: Cassius Chaerea,  CC BY-SA 3.0
This was also the line taken by commentators and legal experts who commented on the ruling in the media. Filip Melzer, an expert on civil law, told Czech Radio no other outcome could have been expected since by her words the Communist Party MP had neither damaged Mr. Kincl’s interests, nor his reputation.

An earlier complaint filed against Semelová in 2014 by the NGO ProtiAlt, which said that her comments propagated hatred and intolerance, was shelved by the police on the grounds that the statements did not qualify as a crime.