Police president Lessy sacked for alleged libel, misconduct

Petr Lessy, photo: CTK

Petr Lessy was relieved of duty as the president of the Czech Police on Wednesday morning by the interior minister. The move comes after the General Inspectorate of the Security Forces charged the police official with libel and abuse of public office. The libel charge is connected to statements Mr Lessy made over half a year ago. The opposition has slammed his dismissal, saying there were other reasons Mr Lessy was fired.

Petr Lessy,  photo: CTK
The General Inspectorate of the Security Forces has accused the police president of libel in the case of a subordinate officer, going back to an interview for a Czech daily in which Mr Lessy suggested the official had swept criminal investigations under the rug. The charges against Mr Lessy are so serious that Interior Minister Jan Kubice confirmed at a press conference on Wednesday there was no other option than immediate dismissal. Here’s what he told journalists shortly after 1 pm:

“The legislation says the following: any official suspected of contemptible or possible criminal behaviour which could threaten the good reputation of the security forces, must be relieved from his post.”

Jan Kubice,  photo: CTK
The minister indicated the charges were unprecedented, one reason why he opted to immediately name a successor, choosing from within the former police president’s ranks: his deputy Martin Červíček. The interior minister said the move was meant to ensure the continued stability of the police forces, and added as a last word that no one, not he, not the police, nor members of the public could be happy over developments. But members of the opposition Social Democrats, including party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka, took a different tack, questioning the very legitimacy of the charges against Lessy and calling his firing “scandalous”:

“As Social Democrats we are convinced that the criminal charges pressed are being purposely used as a means to get rid of a police president who was a thorn in the government’s side. We are convinced that what is really going on is a putsch by the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 threatening the independent functioning of the police.”

Martin Červíček,  photo: CTK
It’s no secret that police president Lessy clashed repeatedly with members of the government, most recently Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek. In July, the police president told Parliament’s Committee on Security that the finance minister had telephoned him in an apparent attempt at intimidation regarding the CASA military plane purchase, in which a former defence minister has been charged. The police president was subsequently heavily criticised by the prime minister himself. On Wednesday former police president Petr Lessy, meanwhile, dismissed the charges against him, saying he would not react through the media but instead would immediately take legal steps in his defence.