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Senate not to propose treason charge against Zeman over Russia

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Prague, March 28 (CTK) – The Senate is unlikely to propose the treason charge against President Milos Zeman because he let the BIS counter-intelligence service check whether the Novichok nerve agent, used to attack a Russian former spy in Britain, was developed or stored in Czech territory, the senators told CTK on Wednesday.

The opposition Mayors and Independents (STAN) are consulting constitutional experts on the charge, but representatives of other parties do not think Zeman’s conduct was treason.

Britain said Russia was behind the Novichok attack and it expelled Russian diplomats. Russia rejected it and took a retaliatory step. Last Thursday, the political leaders of EU member states backed Britain and most of them, including the Czech Republic, have expelled some Russian diplomats.

Last week, Russia claimed that Novichok might have come from the Czech Republic. Prime Minister Andrej Babis dismissed the allegation, calling it “a blatant lie.”

Senate chairman Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD) said on Wednesday that STAN’s effort was a “a storm in a cup of tea.”

Stech said Zeman’s step had not fulfilled the criteria for a constitutional complaint.

The required three-fifth majority would be found neither in the Senate nor in the Chamber of Deputies, he added.

Stech said the president could empower the BIS with some tasks with the government’s awareness.

“One can certainly disagree with some Zeman’s words, but this is certainly no matter for a treason charge,” the chairman of the CSSD senators, Petr Vicha, said.

Vicha said he presumed that STAN would eventually withdraw the proposed complaint.

Milos Vystrcil, chairman of the senators for the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said he did not think Zeman’s step was a reason for a complaint.

“If the relevant minister said that the nerve gas did not come from our country and the president still entrusted the BIS with an investigation, whereby he challenged the minister’s statement, he moves on the brink of treason,” STAN leader Petr Gazdik said earlier this week.

“The Senate should act,” he added.

The constitutional complaint must be presented by at least one-third of the 81 senators. To accept it, a three-fifth majority is needed at a session of the Senate. It must be also confirmed by three-fifths of all members of the Chamber of Deputies or at least 120 of them.

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