Saturday, 19 April 2014

TOP 09 distances itself from amnesty

4 January 2013

Prague, Jan 3 (CTK) - The conservative TOP 09 refuses to bear responsibility for the impact of the major amnesty that Czech President Vaclav Klaus declared on New Year because the plan was not discussed with the party and its ministers were not informed about it in advance, TOP 09 said yesterday.

The TOP 09 leadership says it considers the amnesty unfortunate as it has challenged the rights of the victims and encourages speculations that it has given protection to real criminals instead of pardoning only petty crimes.

The amnesty that Klaus announced on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Czech Republic was countersigned by Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS). More than 7000 convicts will probably be released within it and some of them have already left prison.

There are some 23,000 prisoners in Czech prisons now. The prisons are overcrowded and the amnesty will improve this situation, among others.

Justice Minister Pavel Blazek (ODS) said the conditions of the amnesty mainly related to the prisoners serving the sentences of one year and less, which means perpetrators of petty crime such as theft.

Blazek advocated Necas's steps. He said Necas had not informed the government beforehand about the amnesty he countersigned over secrecy.

Blazek said when former president Vaclav Havel had declared amnesties, then prime ministers Vaclav Klaus and Josef Tosovsky proceeded in the same way.

Blazek said the declared amnesty was an exclusive power of the head of state.

He said he himself had received the text of the amnesty just before Christmas.

"However, it was impossible to assign any checking of the persons in question for fear of violation of secrecy," Blazek said.

If information on the amnesty had been released earlier, unrest in prisons could have broken out, he added.

The amnesty pardons some unsuspended as well as suspended criminal offences and halts criminal prosecution in some cases.

The Social Democrats (opposition CSSD) wants a special parliamentary session to deal with the amnesty. They said it is scandalous that people prosecuted over corruption and economic crimes have not be exempted from the amnesty.

TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg criticised this on Wednesday, too.

The CSSD also said TOP 09 is responsible for the amnesty because its ministers remain part of Necas's cabinet.

TOP 09 deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek said a debate should start on whether amnesty belongs in a modern constitution.

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