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StB agents hunted but officers were the evil – Zeman on Babiš case

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Prague, Feb 15 (CTK) – Former communist secret police (StB) agents have been hunted based on the lustration law, but it was high StB officers who organised evil, Czech President Milos Zeman said on Thursday reacting to a court’s rejection of PM Andrej Babis’s complaint about his name figuring as an StB agent in archive files.

Before the October 2017 general election, voters knew about the court dispute in which Babis was claiming clearance from StB cooperation, but still Babis’s ANO movement won the election, Zeman said in an interview on Barrandov TV.

StB agents started to be hunted based on the lustration law, often being blackmailed, facing the treat of losing their job or seeing their children barred from studying at a secondary school or university, Zeman said.

The lustration law from the early 1990s bans former StB agents, former Czechoslovak Communist Party’s high-ranking officials and members of the communist paramilitary units from high posts in the state administration.

“Who organised the evil? It was not agents, it was the [StB] officers,” Zeman said, referring to the communist era of 1948-1989.

In spite of this, the officers have been persecuted less or not at all [since the fall of communism], he added.

In 2015, however, Zeman refused to grant the title of professor to physicist Ivan Ostadal over his alleged contacts with the StB in the past.

Zeman confirmed on Thursday that despite the court verdict, he will enable Babis to form a new government, after his first minority cabinet lost a confidence vote in parliament and is ruling in resignation.

“There are only three parties that can be considered possible partners of ANO,” Zeman said.

Some time ago, he said he would prefer a minority government of ANO that would be supported by the CSSD, along with either the Communists (KSCM) or the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) or by all the three parties.

Zeman said on Thursday he expects Babis’s second government-forming try to be a success.

He said after the CSSD congress on Sunday, which is to elect a new party leadership and decide on its approach to government cooperation, he will meet KSCM chairman Vojtech Filip and SPD chairman Tomio Okamura, and also the new CSSD leaders, if they showed interest in it.

“Subsequently, some of the above combinations will develop and we will have a government,” Zeman said.

In reaction to the Bratislava court verdict earlier this week, Babis, a Slovak-born billionaire, insisted on never having cooperated with the StB. He said he wants to file more lawsuits to defend himself.

He said he does not expect the verdict to influence the Czech government-forming negotiations.

Zeman has promised to set no deadline for him to form a new cabinet.

The opposition has criticised the lack of a deadline as going counter to the sense of the constitution.

“The sense of the constitution is something which those who are unable to interpret the constitution use as a pretext,” Zeman said.

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