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Court: Zeman’s office must apologise for slandering journalist

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Prague, March 2 (CTK) – The Presidential Office must apologise to Terezie Kaslova, a grand-daughter of Czech journalist Ferdinand Peroutka, for President Milos Zeman saying Peroutka wrote an article “Hitler Is Gentleman,” a Prague district court ruled on Wednesday.

The verdict has not taken effect yet.

The Presidential Office will appeal it, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said.

Last year, Zeman said Peroutka had published the article “Hitler is a Gentleman” in the Pritomnost (Presence) Czech political magazine in the interwar period.

However, historians and other experts in Peroutka’s work dismissed it. They say he has never written such an article.

Peroutka (1895-1978) was a prominent democratic journalist during the interwar period. He was imprisoned by the Nazi regime in 1939-1945. He left the country after the 1948 communist coup and later worked for Radio Free Europe. He died in the USA.

The dispute about the protection of Peroutka’s personality concerns Zeman’s statements at the conference marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) concentration camp, held in Prague in January 2015.

Speaking about the failure of intellectuals at the time when Nazis seized power, Zeman said “one of the greatest Czech journalists, Ferdinand Peroutka, released an article entitled Hitler is a Gentleman in the prestigious magazine Pritomnost.”

Zeman insisted on reading such an article. He promised to apologise if the text were not found, but he has not done it yet.

Ovcacek has been searching for the article in vain to date.

Judge Katerina Sedlakova concluded, justifying the verdict, that the Presidential Office had not submitted a single piece of evidence to prove Peroutka’s authorship of the text in question.

Lawyer Marek Nespala, representing the Presidential Office, argued that the office can neither be responsible for the president’s statements, nor assess them. He asked the court to halt the proceedings.

Neither Zeman nor Ovcacek attended Wednesday’s court proceedings.

Czech government and opposition politicians have commented on the verdict.

Agriculture Minister Marian Jurecka (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said Zeman should act like a man and apologise to Peroutka’s grand-daughter in person. He called the decision to appeal the verdict a childish reaction of “a small boy who cannot admit he has made a mistake.”

The opposition right-wing Civic Democrat (ODS) and TOP 09 chairmen, Petr Fiala and Miroslav Kalousek, consider the whole affair embarrassing.

Fiala said he considers it absurd that Zeman had gone overboard with it.

MEP Jiri Pospisil (for TOP 09), former justice minister, said the verdict was a satisfaction for Peroutka.

Jan Martin Stransky, publisher of the renewed Pritomnost political magazine, welcomed the verdict.

Zeman’s stubborn refusal to apologise and his decision to appeal against the verdict is “a clear evidence of a memory disorder, and thus also of dementia” which is supported by his narcissistic tendency, said Stransky, a neurologist by profession.

In the controversial speech that claimed that Peroutka had admiration for Hitler, Zeman also said that Peroutka had made the statement “If one cannot sing with the angels, one must howl with the wolves.” However, the author of this statement was Stransky’s father, lawmaker and journalist Jan Stransky (1913-1988).

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