Top Czech Prosecutor Quits, Citing Attacks From Justice Minister

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The Czech Republic’s chief prosecutor, who ordered the reopening of a fraud investigation against the nation’s billionaire prime minister two years ago, is resigning because of conflicts with the justice minister.

Pavel Zeman announced on Friday he’ll quit the end of June and become a regular prosecutor, saying he’s been recently spending too much time and energy confronting what he called “attacks and tussles” with Justice Minister Marie Benesova. He didn’t elaborate and said there was no pressure from other government members.

Zeman came into spotlight in 2019 when he overturned a ruling by a subordinate to drop fraud charges against Prime Minister Andrej Babis. He ordered that the case be returned to police for more investigation, which is still ongoing.

A European Union audit has found Babis in conflict of interest over ties to his chemical, farming and media businesses, and the fraud probe is related to allegations of illegally drawing EU funds. Despite the case, the Czech Republic has avoided the type of rule-of-law disputes that have strained relations between the bloc’s executive and Poland and Hungary.

“I have a relatively strong belief that the state prosecutor’s office will continue functioning like it did under my leadership for 10-and-a-half years, and that means independently,” Zeman told reporters. He said he’d been considering resigning for some time and last year applied for a judge post at the European Court of Human Rights.

Benesova last month criticized Zeman for making public comments about the investigation of a 2014 explosion at a munitions depot. The government blamed the attack on Russian secret services, and it triggered a diplomatic conflict with Moscow. Babis defended Zeman’s actions in the case.

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