Slonkova case takes new turn: Havel hints Kavan should resign

Sabina Slonkova, photo: CTK

The case involving an alleged plot to kill the Czech investigative reporter, Sabina Slonkova took a new turn on Tuesday. Because one of the prime suspects is a former senior foreign ministry official, the Czech President Vaclav Havel has now suggested that the man's boss at the time, former foreign minister Jan Kavan, should resign from his posts in international organisations. Dita Asiedu has the story:

Sabina Slonkova,  photo: CTK
It's the biggest headline-making story in the country: and President Vaclav Havel has now joined the rush of politicians expressing opinions on the scandal. He expressed deep shock over the suspected contract killing and indirectly blamed former Foreign Minister Kavan, advising him to rethink his suitability to hold any important public office. Although Mr Havel did not accuse Mr Kavan of having been involved in the plot, he made it clear that he thought a number of incidents that occurred when Mr Kavan was minister, soiled the reputation of the country. Ladislav Spacek is the president's spokesman:

"The president added that after his experience from the far and recent past with Jan Kavan, with his particular and strange contacts and connections, he thinks that Mr Kavan should think over his ability to do some capacity that he now bears."

Unlike the president, most Czech politicians have been more hesitant about pointing fingers at who they think is to blame. Mr Kavan's Social Democratic party colleagues have been quick to stand by his side. Whilst the recently appointed Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, points out that there has been nothing to prove Mr Kavan's connection to the prime suspect, the chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, Vladimir Lastuvka says it is quite likely that the whole affair is some kind of a "media game".

The main suspect, Karel Srba, used to be a prominent civil servant at Mr Kavan's Ministry. At the time the journalist Sabina Slonkova questioned a number of his decisions, accusing him of corruption, especially concerning the letting of the Czech foreign ministry's property in Moscow. This resulted in Mr Srba's resignation and some journalists, including Ms Slonkova, continued to speculate that the minister himself had been involved.

Mr Kavan , however, claims that he has not been in contact with Mr Srba since his resignation in March last year, and distances himself from any involvement in the case:

"Mr Srba came to me reporting that he suspected there were certain activities of the ministry that weren't above board and damaged the financial interests of the state. I then gave him permission to investigate the matter and return with a report. He was neither my personal secretary nor a close co-worker."

President Havel did not specify what public posts he thought Mr Kavan should not hold, but there is strong speculation that he had just one post in mind: his new job as UN General Assembly President. Michal Broza is the Information Officer at the UN Information Centre in Prague. I asked him earlier how much of an interest the UN had taken in the case:

"We started in the very early stage - as soon as it appeared on the IDNES website. We were aware of this case and closely monitored it and I think that this is an issue, which is very important because it touches the question of free expression, of the free media. I don't think that the case is that far that the UN should be considering the availability of Mr Kavan for the post and we have to see and monitor it in the future."