Thursday, 22 March 2018

LN: Minister Pelikán to be replaced over Nikulin's case

12 March 2018

Prague, March 9 (CTK) - Prime Minister Andrej Babis plans to replace Robert Pelikan (both ANO) with the flexible Petr Mlsna as justice minister in his next cabinet, daily Lidove noviny (LN) reported on Friday, adding that President Milos Zeman wants to prevent alleged Russian hacker's extradition to the USA in this way.

Alleged Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin was arrested in Prague in 2016 and the Czech justice minister is to make the final decision on his extradition soon, either to the USA or Russia, both of which accused him of crime. The USA seems to hope Nikulin is acquainted with Russian cyber operations against the West, and Russia has been pressing on Nikulin's transfer to his homeland.

Pelikan recently said Zeman repeatedly resolutely intervened on behalf of Nikulin's extradition to Moscow. Pelikan indirectly said he would extradite Nikulin to the USA because it suspects him of far more serious crimes than Russia.

LN writes that Pelikan also does not fit Babis's idea of a government that is fully coordinated and whose members promote identical views.

The paper notes that Pelikan opposed the election of Communist (KSCM) MP Zdenek Ondracek as head of a parliamentary commission supervising the GIBS security forces inspection and called for the dismissal of right-wing populist Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy, SPD) as parliament deputy chairman.

The ANO movement helped elect Ondracek as the commission's head last week, but Babis then proposed his sacking in reaction to strong street protests. On Tuesday, Ondracek resigned before a vote on his dismissal was taken. Ondracek had been a member of a communist-era riot police unit took violent action against peaceful anti-Communist demonstrators in 1989.

After Okamura made statements that challenged the Roma Holocaust, some opposition parties and a part of the public demanded that he leave the post of lower house deputy chairman. However, ANO and the KSCM supported him. Babis said Okamura apologised for his statements.

The ANO minority government lost a confidence vote in January. Zeman entrusted Babis with forming another government and the current cabinet will be ruling the country in resignation until the appointment of a new one.

According to LN, Mlsna is an ambitious lawyer who can find allies in any political environment and secure a high post for himself irrespective of who is in power.

Mlsna, 39, was a deputy minister several times, first in 2010 when he was a deputy to justice minister Jiri Pospisil (then Civic Democrats, ODS; now TOP 09). For half a year, he even was a minister without portfolio, but the then government of Petr Necas (ODS) fell in mid-2013. He has been a deputy interior minister for three years now, first under Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) and now under Lubomir Metnar (ANO).

In 2013, Mlsna wanted to become a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Necas's government pushed his nomination through, but the court rejected his nomination as it considered him too young and closely linked to political power, the daily writes.

The lawyers whom LN addressed said they fear Mlsna would deteriorate the situation in the judiciary due to his extreme loyalty to anybody who is his current superior.

"He is an impudent political deputy minister of the old kind who is ready to do anything and has a thick skin," a lawyer requesting anonymity told the paper.

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