Constitutional Court throws out treason charges against ex-president Klaus

Václav Klaus, photo: archive of the Czech Government

The Constitutional Court has thrown out treason charges against former President Václav Klaus, saying there were no grounds to consider the case chiefly because he is no longer president. The decision to ask the Court to impeach Mr Klaus for treason in his final days in office cast a shadow on his presidency, and highlighted the deep divisions in Czech society.

Václav Klaus,  photo: archive of the Czech Government
The public and politicians alike were stunned on March 4th when the upper house of parliament, heavily dominated by the left, impeached outgoing president Václav Klaus for treason. Senators said by refusing to sign a number of European treaties and granting a judicial amnesty that halted dozens of fraud prosecutions, Mr Klaus had committed high treason.

Only the Senate can impeach the President, and only the Constitutional Court can try him. But on Wednesday, court official Ivo Pospíšil told reporters there was no case against Mr Klaus.

Mr Pospíšil said the primary justification for trying a sitting president would be to remove him from office, and since Mr Klaus had left the post three days after the case was filed, that justification was obviously no longer present. The court’s decision was immediately welcomed by the prime minister Petr Nečas, who said the politicians who’d voted to impeach the president should now consider resigning.

František Bublan,  photo: Vendula Uhlíková
A spokesman for Mr Klaus said the case was a warning at just how low politics could fall in the Czech Republic, and welcomed the court’s decision to halt proceedings. But those who voted in favour of impeachment were adamant the president should have faced trial. František Bublan was one of the three dozen senators – most of them Social Democrats – who raised their hands in favour of impeachment:

“It’s a shame, not only for the Senate, which dealt with this matter, but it’s also a shame for members of the public, and – most of all – it’s a shame for Vaclav Klaus himself. He’s been denied the chance to defend himself, and instead, the matter has just been left hanging in the air.”

Observers saw the vote as a largely symbolic move taken in an upper house packed with Mr Klaus’s adversaries on the political left. The biggest punishment he faced was losing office, but he could have lost his presidential pension of 50,000 crowns per month and, if convicted, could not have run for another term in office in the future.

Constitutional Court | Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio
At present Mr Klaus has no political plans or clear political ambitions; he is currently presiding over his new think tank in Prague’s Hanspaulka district. There was a flurry of speculation recently that he would stand as an MEP next year – possibly aiming to lead the eurosceptic grouping in the European Parliament – but there’s been no confirmation of that, and the media are now focused on reports that Mr Klaus’s wife Livie is being considered as the new ambassador to Slovakia.