Senator accused of defamation retains political immunity
The Czech Senate’s immunity committee decided on Tuesday not to hand independent Senator Liana Janáčková over for prosecution. Mrs Janáčková stands accused of defamation, after saying that the country’s Roma population should, among other things, be ‘blown up’. The decision has provoked outcry amongst Romany rights groups, who say that the move gives a green light to public displays of racism.
Mrs Janáčková has since apologized for the remarks, but the Czech police want to investigate her on charges of defamation. On Tuesday, the Senate’s immunity committee chose not to hand her over. The move has dismayed Romany rights activists. Kumar Vishwanatan is a community worker in Mrs Janáčková’s constituency:
“On a general level, I think it is wrong for politicians and public figures to conjure up such frightening images as electric fences and dynamite and so on. I think this is unacceptable. We are still living in the shadow of the Romany Holocaust. And secondly, there is a section of the general public who will now see this as a green light to talk this way about the Roma. So I think this should be condemned.”
The Senate’s immunity committee decided by seven votes to two that Mrs Janáčková should not be stripped of her immunity – in a move which has received criticism from many different quarters. Here’s political analyst Ivan Gabal:
“I think it casts the Czech Senate’s immunity committee in a bad light. I think it is a political decision. The true situation is that she expressed herself in a way which a court should decide whether to punish or not. And I think no politician should be immune from facing trial for comments they have made about people of different ethnic backgrounds.”
But do you think what she did really constitutes a punishable offence? Because she has apologised for these comments which she called ‘silly’ and ‘unfortunate’? So isn’t this just her opponents trying to gain some political mileage out of her embarrassment?
The committee’s recommendation is not final – the Czech Senate still has to vote on whether Mrs Janáčková should be stripped of her immunity or not. Given the controversy that this recommendation has sparked, it could be a tough decision for senators.