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Zeman to turn to court over his refusal to appoint professors

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Prague, May 10 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman will file a cassation complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court against the verdict in the case of his refusal to appoint some university professors, Presidential Office lawyer Marek Nespala told CTK on Thursday.

He said this was a fundamental legal issue concerning the head of state’s position and sovereignty.

Fajt, Ostadal and Charles University, which proposed the two for professors, filed legal complaints against Zeman’s decision not to appoint physicist Ivan Ostadal and art historian and National Gallery director Jiri Fajt as professors. The Prague Municipal Court cancelled the decision and returned the case to the president for reappraisal in late April.

According to the verdict, no executive body can reassess whether a candidate fulfils conditions for the appointment as professor after due appointment proceedings, since it would thereby interfere in the autonomy of universities in an inadmissible way.

“This concerns not only the process of professors appointment, but the legal character of the office of the president in general. It means that this is not a personal issue, but primarily a legal issue,” Nespala said, justifying the planned complaint.

The Presidential Office can challenge the verdict within two weeks since its reception.

According to the court, the president can decide not to appoint the proposed candidate as professor if he concluded that the applicant did not go through a regular appointment process or if this process had shortcomings due to which it might be unlawful. However, such a decision must be justified, which Zeman did not do.

Zeman argued that no other state body can call him to account for the execution of his powers, in particular in the case of not appointing professors.

However, the court refuted this argument. The president is always bound by constitutional and other laws in the power execution and his steps can be examined in terms of legitimacy, the court said in the justification of the verdict.

Zeman did not sign the appointment decrees of Fajt, Ostadal and political scientist Jan Eichler in the spring of 2015. He justified the step by their serious wrongdoings from the past.

Zeman claims that Ostadal had contacts with the communist secret police StB in the 1980s and Fajt demanded a bribe when he asked a bank to send a part of its donation to the National Gallery as a contribution to his own salary, while Eichler worked in the propaganda unit of the military under the communist regime.

Zeman announced his decision in a letter sent to then education minister Katerina Valachova in January 2016.

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