Thousands of Czechs protest for fourth week against justice minister

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Thousands of Czechs protested for a fourth week in a row on Tuesday against a justice minister they fear could influence a criminal case against Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Protesters say Justice Minister Marie Benesova's past comments and actions were supportive of Babis, a billionaire-turned-politician who has been charged with illegally tapping 2 million euros in European Union funds a decade ago when he was in business. He denies the charges

Reuters May 22, 2019 03:05:45 IST
Thousands of Czechs protest for fourth week against justice minister

Thousands of Czechs protest for fourth week against justice minister

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Thousands of Czechs protested for a fourth week in a row on Tuesday against a justice minister they fear could influence a criminal case against Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

Protesters say Justice Minister Marie Benesova's past comments and actions were supportive of Babis, a billionaire-turned-politician who has been charged with illegally tapping 2 million euros in European Union funds a decade ago when he was in business. He denies the charges.

As a member of parliament in 2017, Benesova was among a small group of lawmakers who did not support lifting Babis's parliamentary immunity in the subsidy case. Earlier, in 2013, she served as justice minister in a caretaker government appointed by President Milos Zeman, an ally of Babis.

People gathered at Wenceslas Square in the centre of Prague, moving the protest to a larger space as the number of participants grew. Organisers estimated attendance at 50,000, surpassing the previous protests with around 20,000.

The crowd waved Czech and European Union flags and signs that read "You can't break justice" or "I am ashamed of my prime minister".

"If such people (as Babis) represent us, it is not good," said Josef Hovorka, 34, an NGO employee.

"We could take inspiration from Austria, where politicians resigned for less," he said, referring to a scandal that felled Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's coalition government at the weekend.

Despite the protests, Babis and his ANO party have not suffered any significant drop in support ahead of a European Parliament election this weekend, garnering around 30 percent in opinion polls.

Prosecutors, who can halt the case before it gets to court, have yet to decide on police recommendations delivered last month that Babis stand trial.

Benesova's predecessor at the justice ministry resigned one day after the police wrapped up their investigation, sparking worries that political pressure might be involved.

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Gareth Jones)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.