A state prosecutor in Prague has slammed President Václav Klaus’ decision earlier this week to pardon former director of the Metropolitan University in Prague Anna Benešová, who was found guilty of embezzlement. Two years of police work, followed by two years work by the prosecution service have been wasted in what Marek Bodlák describes as an incomprehensible decision.
Last fall, Benešová was handed down a two-year suspended prison sentence with a four-year probation period, and a five-year ban from working in an administrative role after being found guilty of embezzling funds from the Metropolitan University in Prague and paying bribes to public officials in order to secure favorable rent, purchase public property at below-market price, and secure other advantages for the university.
On Tuesday, Klaus’ administration announced that the president had pardoned 14 persons convicted of various crimes, including Benešová.
Klaus’ spokesman Radim Ochvat said Klaus had pardoned her on the grounds that she needed to care for her seriously-ill husband and had no previous convictions.
Four wasted years
“This pardon depreciates four years of work by the police, public prosecution service and the court,” Bodlák said in an interview published in Thursday’s edition of Lidové noviny (LN), adding that the timing of the decision amounts to total disregard for the police and judiciary and means manpower and public funds have been wasted.
“She sent her appeal for a pardon to the President back in March 2009, a full year before she was prosecuted,” Bodlák said, adding he would understand if the president had pardoned her back then, shortly after criminal proceedings were launched, on account of her ill husband.
“But I don’t understand why now after the court’s ruling has come into effect: the sentence in no way prevents her providing care and the ban on professional activity should result in her being able to dedicate herself fully to caring for her husband,” Bodlák added.
Pardon me, Mr. President
Klaus’ exercise of his right to pardon convicted persons has come under scrutiny particularly after the weekly Respekt reported last October that ‘This raises the question as to whether it’s not too much of a luxury to maintain institutions such as the police, state prosecution service and the courts’the head of state's administration had accepted a bribe to arrange the pardon of Radka Kadlecová, a former policewoman with the Foreign Police in the Karlovy Vary region sentenced in 2009 to two years in prison for demanding bribes for Czech residency permits.
Prior to Kadlecová’s pardon, Klaus’ mercy was questioned after he let off entrepreneur Jiři Kotík, who was handed a 10-year prison sentence for defrauding business partners of Kč 461 million. In his justification, Klaus referred to “difficult family circumstances” and a report into Kotík’s business dealings and crimes by the University of Economics in Prague (VŠE), but refused to reveal any details from the report citing confidentiality.
An MP with the center-right party TOP 09 Stanislav Polčák agrees with Bodlák that Klaus’ pardon for Benešová is dubious. “It’s an excess and a deviation from the ramifications of the law. Formally Mr. President can do it, but the pardon should not be used in this way” Polčák was cited by the server parlamentnilisty.cz.
“If we have in the [Prague] Castle a man who’s apparently capable of judging guilt and punishments better than the whole judicial system, this raises the question as to whether it’s not too much of a luxury to maintain institutions such as the police, state prosecution service and the courts, and whether it wouldn’t be more advantageous for criminal acts to judged directly by the Castle,” Bodlák told LN.