ODS calls for removal of investigators in Zelezny case

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The general director of the most successful Czech commercial TV station, Nova, Vladimir Zelezny, has been at the centre of an international business dispute for some time. Last week he was charged with fraud and taken into custody to prevent him from influencing witnesses, but was released two days later. Earlier this week, the main opposition Civic Democratic party called on the Minister of the Interior, Stanislav Gross, to remove the director of the Office of Investigation and the investigator in the case, claiming the two were biased. Alena Skodova has more:

ODS representatives began calling for the removal of the head of the Office of Investigation, Miroslav Antl, and the investigator in the Zelezny case, Vladimir Machala, after the two said publicly that Zelezny should have remained in custody. In addition, Mr. Antl says that his subordinate has been subject to threats and pressure. The fact that Mr. Machala has been given a police bodyguard would seem to confirm his claims. But a senior figure in the Civic Democrats, Ivan Langer, maintains the two investigators have behaved unprofessionally:

"I see the statements made by Mr. Antl and Mr. Machala as so serious, that I want to know the position of the Interior Minister as to whether their claims of being exposed to political pressures are justified. It would also be interesting to know what the Minister thinks about it when an investigator appears on TV and casts doubts on the ruling of a court."

Meanwhile, the leader of the Civic Democrats, Vaclav Klaus, met with the freshly released TV Nova director, Vladimir Zelezny on Monday. The two reportedly discussed business people's freedom to operate in the Czech Republic. Although the ODS's move has met with a barrage of criticism from another opposition party, the Freedom Union, Ivan Langer says that Mr. Zelezny has not yet been accused by the state attorney, so he must be considered innocent and shouldn't be removed from normal life.

On Tuesday, the Minister of the Interior, Stanislav Gross decided the two investigators would remain in office. His spokesman, Samuel Troska told RP that Mr. Gross trusted them fully:

"Minister Gross fully trusts both Mr. Antl and Mr. Machala, and he believes they are taking steps under careful consideration. The Minister does not want to harm a person just because he is a popular figure, but on the other hand no one should be protected just because they are influential. What he considers important is that the police must be protected from possible political pressure."