Thursday, 20 September 2018

LN: Ex-minister Rath convicted of corruption may run for Senate

ČTK |
30 July 2018

Prague, July 27 (CTK) - Former Czech regional governor and ex-minister David Rath, who was sent to prison for corruption, wants to run for senator in the Litomerice ward, north Bohemia, saying he knows the locality well as he spent a long time in custody there, daily Lidove noviny (LN) reported on Friday.

Rath, Social Democrat (CSSD) lawmaker (2006-2012), Central Bohemia governor (2008-2012) and health minister (2005-2006), was in June again sentenced to 8.5 in prison for corruption connected with public contracts in the region he headed, which was the same sentence that was imposed on him three years ago. The Prague Regional Court also ordered the forfeiture of some 22 million crowns, which the police seized from him.

Rath, who pleads innocent, appealed the verdict.

LN writes that Rath is now considering running in the autumn election to one-third of the Senate, the upper house of parliament, most likely for the Bloc of Jana Bobosikova, a former MEP. He is interested in the candidacy particularly in Litomerice where he spent 18 months in the local custody prison in 2012-2013 when the police were investigating his corruption case.

"I have spent enough time in custody in Litomerice so I know the town not only as a citizen, but also from the other side, which is an interesting experience, in my opinion. To put it simply, the location of a prison in the town centre is completely unsuitable and one of my possible election topics, though marginal, is that Litomerice should resolve this," former influential politician Rath told LN.

Rath, a physician by profession, said, speaking more seriously, that the dominant topic of his election campaign would be the future of healthcare facilities in the locality.

"Big investment groups like Penta want to silently privatise a number of hospitals and no one in politics is dealing with this," said Rath, who chaired the Czech Doctors' Chamber in the past and now is running a private medical practice.

Rath is to make up his mind about his candidacy for senator at the weekend as the deadline for the registration of lists of Senate candidates expires at the beginning of next week.

Since he would not have enough time to collect signatures for his independent candidacy, he has to run for a party or movement, LN writes, saying the most probably alternative is that he will choose the Bloc of Jana Bobosikova.

Rath's criminal case started in mid-May 2012 when he was caught red-handed with seven million crowns in a wine box, a suspected bribe for a manipulated commission relating to the reconstruction of a chateau in Central Bohemia, and arrested. Now he is waiting for his appeals trial that is to start in a few months.

If Rath were elected to the Senate, he would gain immunity to criminal prosecution granted to lawmakers.

However, LN writes that Rath, who is very intelligent, can hardly suppose to have a real chance to be elected to the Senate.

The primary goal of his candidacy is not to gain the lawmaker's immunity, but he would rather like to use the campaign before the Senate election to attack his investigators and judges. His long-term goal is to present himself as a victim of judicial and political arbitrary rule, LN writes.

Rath claims that his prison sentence level was set beforehand on the basis of a political order and he named in particular the influence of President Milos Zeman on his case.

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