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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife


czechpresidentnowBUDAPEST/PRAGUE (BosNewsLife)-- There is a political crisis  in the Czech Republic where conservative President Vaclav Klaus facing high treason charges over his controversial decision to release thousands of prison inmates and others.

Lawmakers in Parliament's upper house, the Senate, voted late Monday, March 4, to file the charges at the Constitutional Court.

The Senate, which is dominated by the left-wing opposition, approved the motion amid public anger over an amnesty Klaus granted to some 7,000 convicted criminals and suspects at the start of the year.

Klaus announced the release of the prisoners on January 1 to observe the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic's independence and the breakup of Czechoslovakia.

Jiri Dienstbier, a prominent Social Democratic Senator, defended the Senate's decision to refer the case to the Constitutional Court. "The Senate couldn't remain silent in a situation when the president repeatedly violated the constitution," he said.

KLAUS DENIES WRONGDOING

Yet, Klaus has defended his decision to release the prisoners, though some have since returned to murder and robbery, explained his spokesman Ladislav Jakl.

"The president listens to the Senate but still defends his decision," Jakl added.

Critics say the unprecedented case in modern Czech history is tainting Klaus's final days in the post after a rocky decade that was also marked by his tough stance towards the European Union.

However Senate Chairman Jaroslav Kubera has hope.

DOUBTS ABOUT CASE

"If the Constitutional Court will say that the events do not amount to treason, paradoxically, the president can emerge from the case," Kubera argued.

Experts have raised doubts that the Constitutional Court will charge the president, saying the events fall short of treason.

However, as Klaus will leave office later this week, controversy over his legacy will remain for some time.

About 73,000 Czechs have signed a petition backing the charges, while Klaus' portrait has already been torn down in schools and offices across the country.

(BosNewsLife's NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).   

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