Czech president slammed over mass amnesty

AFP , Thursday 3 Jan 2013

As a result of decreeing a mass amnesty for thousands of convicted or suspected criminals, Czech President Vaclav Klaus was heavily condemned for his decision

Outgoing Czech President Vaclav Klaus came under fire Thursday for decreeing a mass amnesty for thousands of convicted or suspected criminals, including some jailed or on trial in major fraud cases.

Around 7,400 inmates out of a total of 23,000 were due to be released following the decision taken by the head of state on the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic's independence.

"Each amnesty should have a transparent philosophy. But in this case, I am still trying to find it," the head of the Czech supreme court, Iva Brozova, told reporters.

The amnesty mostly applies to people given sentences of less than a year and those aged over 75 who have been sentenced to less than 10 years in jail.

The amnesty will also put a halt to legal proceedings that have been going on for more than eight years, provided that the possible sentence is not more than 10 years.

"This is a gesture aimed at giving a fresh chance to those citizens who may have broken the law but who are not repeat offenders," Klaus explained in the Dnes newspaper.

The Czech press on Thursday highlighted several controversial cases that would be affected by the amnesty.

These included prominent businessman Tomas Pitr, who is being prosecuted for suspected tax fraud, and Czech former football association chief Frantisek Chvalovsky who is suspected of embezzling the equivalent of 60 million euros ($78 million).

Social Democrat Jiri Dienstbier, one of the candidates vying to replace Klaus who has served two terms in elections in March, said the president was giving a "present to his friends in the business sector".

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