Government divided over the naming of Vladislav Husak as acting Police President

Vladislav Husak, photo: CTK

The Cabinet on Wednesday appointed Deputy Police President Vladislav Husak for the uniformed police to serve as acting police chief in the Czech Republic. But in a snub to the interior minister, who proposed Mr Husak, they only confirmed him as a temporary stop-gap. Mr Husak is a controversial choice, as he was the officer directly responsible for the police action in July to shutdown the techno rave party known as CzechTek, which left scores injured on both sides.

Vladislav Husak,  photo: CTK
The handling of the CzechTek affair has divided society, largely along generational lines, with older Czechs far more likely to approve of the heavy-handed police intervention than people under the age of thirty. However, polls have shown that the majority of people, regardless of age, thought the police overreacted. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, who had been in office for just of a couple months, took a hit in the popularity polls as charges of police brutality dominated the headlines.

The chairman of the Christian Democrats, a minor party in the governing coalition, strongly objected to the nomination of Vladislav Husak as police president, calling it an "extraordinarily unfortunate and stupid" idea. The daily Mlada fronta Dnes said in an editorial that opposition to Mr Husak is so great that the Interior Minister, Frantisek Bublan, might be forced to come up with an alternate candidate.

On orders from the Interior Minister, some 1,200 police in riot gear were sent to break up the CzechTek festival, which took place in an open field near the Czech-German border. Under the direction of Deputy Police President Husak, police used tear gas, water cannon and batons to end the rave.

Supporters of CzechTek, including several politicians, have drawn comparisons of the police action to the November 1989 suppression anti-communist demonstrations which began the Velvet Revolution. The fact that Mr Husak was a member of a riot police unit at that time has not helped his public image.

November 1989
But apart from Mr Husak's role at CzechTek his part in numerous other controversial police actions make him a hard sell as a candidate. Police bungled the arrest of billionaire Radovan Krejcir, who is suspected of attempted murder, criminal conspiracy and fraud. He managed to escape from his luxury villa, although it was surrounded by police. The ten police officers who were taken off duty took up their duty again after two months- this coming after the resignation in June of the former Police President over the fiasco, and so on Mr Husak's watch.

The acting head of the police presidium has also been linked to the well-known defence lawyer Tomas Sokol, whose clients include the fugitive billionaire. Mr Husak has said the two merely play tennis together and never discuss police work.