Pundit: battle over control of High State Attorney’s Office in Prague decisive for country’s democratic development

Jiří Pehe

The battle over who should head the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague and the implications of the return of the office’s old-new head Vlastimil Rampula are very much at the centre of media attention. Radio Prague asked commentator Jiří Pehe for his interpretation of the affair.

Vlastimil Rampula
“The situation in the office of the Prague Chief Prosecutor can be interpreted on several different levels. The most simple interpretation is that it is a battle between two groups of the Czech judiciary; a fight for power but I think that the interpretation that this is also a struggle for the future functioning of Czech democracy is more appropriate and what I have in mind is the fact that we are watching a battle between Mr. Zeman, who is the General Prosecutor in the Czech Republic, and Mr. Rampula over how in the future various corruption cases and economic crimes will be prosecuted. And I think that Mr. Rampula has been a very controversial figure who it seems managed to sweep many important cases under the carpet, so to speak, and Mr. Zeman is trying to reopen many of these cases and in the future also punish those who commit economic crime or are involved in large-scale corruption.”

Do you feel that politicians are too heavily involved here – because we have seen Radek John, head of Public Affairs, call a special session of Parliament’s Security Committee and there is talk that the justice minister’s head could roll over this...

Radek John
“I think that we should notice a very interesting development in this case. Not much was happening when Mr. Zeman (General Prosecutor) asked the justice minister to recall Mr. Rampula. It was accepted by some politicians and some people in the judiciary with a lot of unease, but really there was no open revolt against Mr. Zeman. It all started at the moment when Mr. Mecl was appointed as provisional head of the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague and he decided to re-open some corruption cases, former investigations which had been closed. That was the moment when we started seeing political attacks, attacks from members of the judiciary - all of them trying to get Mr. Rampula back and somehow also undermine the position of the minister of justice. All this tells me that there are very powerful people in this country - in politics and the economy- who are terribly afraid that Mr. Zeman could start reopening some of these cases, that he could press charges and make heads roll - and those would be the heads of some very important people in this country.”