Interior Minister blames former government figures for alleged bugging

Ivan Langer, photo: CTK

A spying scandal which broke on the eve of last June's general elections is once more in the headlines. On Thursday the minister of the interior said he had proof that inspectors, acting on the orders of his predecessor and a former prime minister, tapped the phones of some four dozen people - and lied to the court while applying for permission.

Ivan Langer,  photo: CTK
The former head of the police's organised crime unit, Jan Kubice, dropped a bombshell late last May, when he produced a report saying there were links between the then governing Social Democrats and the mafia.

The report was intended only for a lower house committee but was soon leaked to the media, days before general elections. When the Social Democrats finished second they cried foul, saying the whole thing had been timed to scupper their chances of re-election.

On Thursday Interior Minister Ivan Langer, of the election-winning Civic Democrats, said the mobile phones of 46 people had been tapped in connection with an investigation into the leak; that was in August and September, when the Social Democrats were still in power. Those bugged include MPs, local councillors and even the 13-year-old step-daughter of the mayor of Olomouc and her school-friend, he said.

Mr Langer said Interior Ministry inspectors had received court permission to bug far fewer people - lying that the 46 numbers they had listed belonged to eight or nine individuals. He said 19 numbers had been attributed to himself alone, while only one was real.

The interior minister put the blame squarely on the shoulders of his predecessor, Frantisek Bublan, and Social Democrat former prime minister Jiri Paroubek. Mr Bublan said if such tapping had taken place he had not known about it. Mr Paroubek simply called Ivan Langer a liar.

Meanwhile, the justice minister has said he will soon put forward new legislation under which every instance of wire-tapping would have to be justified. Individuals who discover they have been bugged groundlessly could take the matter to court.

Like last year's original Kubice affair, these latest allegations, claims and counter-claims involving the country's two biggest parties are murky to say the least. One thing that is clear is that we have not heard the last of the matter. The supreme state attorney and Mr Langer's Interior Ministry will now decide whether inspectors broke the law when acquiring court permission for the phone taps.