President grants pardon to plane hijacker
The Czech president's powers are largely constitutional, but one area where he can exercise real influence is in granting pardons. The question of who should be given a pardon and under what circumstances has long been a subject of controversy, and this week, the issue has once again hit the headlines. President Vaclav Klaus has granted pardons to eight people, including a man who in 1978 hijacked a passenger plane in order to escape across the Iron Curtain to West Germany.
Given the two men's drastic methods, the West German authorities were not exactly welcoming, and the hijackers were sent to a German prison for three years. In 1983, Czechoslovak courts sentenced the two men and Josef Katrinak's wife Anna, to long prison terms in absentia, but the West German authorities refused to extradite them.
All of them stayed abroad and could not visit their families back in the Czech Republic even after the fall of communism because they would still face prosecution. That's why Radomir Sebesta, now aged 52, applied for a presidential pardon - to be able to visit his ailing parents back home.
President Klaus's secretary Ladislav Jakl explains why Mr Klaus decided to grant pardon to Radomir Sebesta.
Mr Jakl added that according to material available to the presidential office, Radomir Sebesta only found out that the explosives really existed once he had boarded the plane.
The daily Mlada Fronta Dnes wrote that Mr Sebesta had unsuccessfully applied for a pardon in the past, during the term of the former Czech president, Vaclav Havel.
President Vaclav Klaus has granted 25 pardons since taking office in March last year. His predecessor, Vaclav Havel, was often criticised for dispensing too many pardons and sometimes to controversial figures. Mr Klaus said shortly after his election last year that he would only grant pardons in exceptional cases.