Former StB chief given suspended sentence by Slovak military court

Well as you heard there the Czech Republic is still struggling to come to terms with its Communist past, and former StB officers will be barred from holding official positions for some time to come. Meanwhile across the border in Slovakia, a court has just found the former head of the StB, Alojz Lorenc, guilty of abuse of power. But he was given only a suspended sentence, in a verdict which is likely to anger many of victims of the Communist secret police. Rob Cameron has more.

Alojz Lorenc was the last head of the StB, which ran a concerted campaign of surveillance and intimidation against opponents of the Communist regime. On Wednesday a military court in his native Slovakia gave him a 15-month suspended sentence for illegally jailing dissidents in the 1980s. The court heard the jailings were to prevent opponents of the regime from publicly protesting on sensitive anniversaries - such as the foundation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 or the death of the student Jan Palach.

Mr Lorenc had already been sentenced - for very similar offences - in the Czech Republic. In 1992, a military court in Tabor found him guilty of using illegal methods against dissidents, and ordered him to serve four years in prison. But he escaped punishment after moving to his native Slovakia, when the country split from the former Czechoslovak Federation in 1993. Under Slovak law he cannot be extradited.

Alojz Lorenc may have been found guilty of using illegal methods against dissidents, but this very light sentence from the Slovak court is unlikely to satisfy victims of the StB. The court said only eleven cases could be proved, far less than the 294 in the Czech trial. Mr Lorenc himself told the court he never intended to commit abuse of office, claiming the behaviour of dissidents before 1989 posed a "severe risk to society." Few now would agree with that, but Mr Lorenc does seem to have got off virtually scot free.