The Office for Investigation of Crimes of Communism initiates accusation of former high ranking Communist party official

Lubomir Strougal

On the initiative of the Office for the Investigation of Crimes of Communism, former top Communist party official, ex-minister of the Interior and ex-Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal has been accused of abuse of power and could be facing a prison sentence. Alena Skodova has the details:

Lubomir Strougal
According to the accusation, Strougal committed the crime when, in 1965, as the then Minister of the Interior, he did not send a certain document to the state prosecutor's office. This was allegedly in order to conceal the murders of three people who had been shot by the Communist secret police in 1948 - the year, when the Communists seized power in post-war Czechoslovakia. The state attorney for Prague 7, Eva Zarecka, told the press that she had gathered enough evidence to send the case to court. Lubomir Strougal, however, was quoted as saying he was not afraid of a possible trial because he did not feel guilty. This is sure to be a closely followed case because, although the Office for the Investigation of Crimes of Communism says it's doing all it can, only a few former Communists have gone to prison for their crimes so far.

On Monday, the Office gave a press conference together with their Polish counterparts from the Institute of National Remembrance. I spoke to the institute's director, Leon Kieres, and asked him to explain the main areas where the two bodies can cooperate?

"First of all, what is closest to me because I'm a university professor, is public education. A public discussion is underway in Poland on how to revise school programmes, not only on the period of WWII but especially on the years of communism. I think that we have many problems which should be our common interest, especially the position of the Communis parties in our countries, their cooperation and the impact they had on public and private lives. The invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 is one of the most significant problems of our future cooperation. The second field is the investigation of war crimes, crimes against humanity and those from the communist era. Today, a list of Polish people who were killed close to the Czechoslovak-German border, when they tried to cross this border, was given to us from the Czech side, and it's very important for us."

How much is your Institute popular, how do people look at it in Poland?

"I don't know because we did not ask Polish public opinion how it supports us, but taking into account my personal, individual experiences, taking into account the reaction of the Polish politicians and media as well, I think that after our twelve months of activity we are deep-rooter in Polish society, the mentality of Polish society, I think that we are accepted. The Institute is recognized as an important institution."

Unlike in Poland, Czech people seem to be rather skeptical about the work of the Office for the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism. Whether this latest case will help to mend its reputation remains to be seen.