Sunday, 20 April 2014

MfD: Some prisoners wrongly freed under presidential amnesty

30 January 2013

Prague, Jan 29 (CTK) - Czech judges have by mistake released minimally three prisoners to whom the amnesty that outgoing President Vaclav Klaus announced on New Year's Day does not apply, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes yesterday.

The judges did not have enough time to deal with the cases and they had no opportunity to get prepared for the amnesty because they did not know of it in advance, unlike in the past, the paper writes.

Czech Judges' Union head Tomas Lichovnik said there is no official interpretation of the amnesty.

Justice Minister Pavel Blazek (Civic Democrats, ODS) rejects the view that the interpretation of the amnesty is not unequivocal.

Blazek told the paper that individual judges are to blame for the possible mistakes. He pointed out that there was no deadline for the verdicts related to the amnesty to be issued and the judges were under no pressure to make the decisions quickly.

Lichovnik dismissed this. "There was little time, judges were under pressure," he said.

Judges from Teplice, north Bohemia, have revealed three cases in which convicts were released from prison by mistake.

The paper writes that further cases of mistakenly released prisoners may appear.

Some persons might have been convicted of several crimes in unrelated cases and the judge who decided on their case might have received information only about some of the verdicts, judge Kamil Kydalka told MfD.

One of the wrongly released prisoners is a repeat criminal who was convicted within four cases. A judge who issued a fifth verdict against him found out that the man is not in prison anymore, although he should not have been released within the amnesty, the paper writes.

Klaus declared the extensive amnesty, within which about 6400 convicts were released from prisons, on the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic.

The amnesty was broadly criticised by politicians and experts, mostly because it halts criminal proceedings lasting for more than eight years and carrying maximally ten years in prison, including a number of big corruption and business frauds.

The opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) initiated a no-confidence vote in the centre-right government over the controversial amnesty, which had been countersigned by Prime Minister Petr Necas (ODS) and for which the government is politically responsible. The government survived the vote.

The Prague Municipal Court recently ruled that the amnesty should be abolished because it was not discussed with the government beforehand. But experts whom CTK addressed share the view that Necas may decide to countersign it without consulting the cabinet.

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