Supreme State Prosecutor in hot water for interfering in case against deputy prime minister

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The supreme state prosecutor, Renata Vesecka, has strongly rejected accusations that she was politically pressured into interfering in a corruption case against Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. On Friday, Ms Vesecka dismissed the prosecutor in charge of the case. She says he made a procedural mistake. But the opposition accuses her of helping to slow down proceedings against Mr Cunek as it is now unclear when and whether at all his case will come to court.

Renata Vesecka, photo: CTK
For the ruling coalition government of the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats, and Greens, charges of corruption against one of its deputies have been a thorn in its side. With a weak 100 seats in the 200 seat lower house, the coalition faces tough negotiations if it hopes to push its public finance reform plan through to another reading. With criminal proceedings against Mr Cunek slowed down, it can now concentrate on the demanding task ahead.

The opposition, meanwhile, is crying foul. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek says the dismissal of the state prosecutor was clearly politically motivated and Ms Vesecka broke a number of laws by giving in to pressure:

Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
"There has been long-standing pressure from the government that is exerted practically on all levels of the state prosecution."

Ms Vesecka's predecessor, Marie Benesova, has a similar view. If anyone was next in line to interfere in Mr Cunek's case, it would have been the Supreme State Prosecution in the Olomouc district, where the case is being investigated, Ms Benesova says. Since Ms Vesecka has overstepped her authority, it is a valid reason for her to be removed from her post:

"Mrs Vesecka is behaving like a 'general' prosecutor and is forgetting that we have the levels of authority divided. There are strict hierarchical structures."

Ms Vesecka says the decision to dismiss the state prosecutor was not taken by herself but rather by the State Prosecutor's Office. She hopes to appear before Parliament to explain why her decision was made:

"Such allegations, in my opinion, border on an attack against a state organ, which is a criminal act. I have sent an e-mail request to the chairman of the committee for constitutional law to allow me to speak before the lower house."

Jiri Cunek, photo: CTK
Jiri Cunek, who is also the leader of the Christian Democrats, is currently one of the most controversial figures on the Czech political scene. Opinion polls suggest that his popularity has fallen dramatically since the beginning of this year. Mr Cunek's wife, a dentist by profession, remains optimistic:

"It is a very unpleasant situation for me and my family, mainly for my children of course. But we just have to take things the way they come. I have always believed that the truth will prevail and still believe this to this day."

The charges of corruption were brought against Jiri Cunek shortly after he entered national politics last year, though he is being investigated for accepting a bribe five years ago when he was still mayor of the town of Vsetin. Police recently said that several witnesses who testified in Mr Cunek's favour had not told the truth. Mr Cunek, who has been insisting that someone is conspiring against him, has welcomed the dismissal of the state prosecutor.