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Protests against appointment of communist-era riot squad member to head police watchdog morph into attacks on prime minister.6 March 2018
Tens of thousands protested across the Czech Republic last night against the appointment of a Communist deputy to head a police watchdog commission.
About 20,000 people gathered on Prague’s Wenceslas Square and thousands more demonstrated in Brno, Ostrava, and other cities and towns. Protesters demanded that Communist Party deputy Zdenek Ondracek be removed as head of the parliamentary oversight commission for the powerful police general inspectorate, known as GIBS. Ondracek belonged to a communist-era police riot squad that beat demonstrators in 1989.
The Prague rally also heard calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, iDNES reports. The Communists are seen as possible members of a coalition government headed by Babis.
The affair comes on the heels of last month’s anniversary of the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia’s government in 1948. Babis himself denies collaborating with the communist secret police.
Ondracek’s face has been a fixture on Czech TV screens as news programs replay a 1989 interview with the then 19-year-old rookie policeman where he defends the harsh police tactics against peaceful demonstrators.
Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip said Ondracek “did nothing wrong” in fulfilling his police duties to suppress demonstrations, the Guardian reports.
Babis has talked with all parliamentary parties including the Communists in a so far unsuccessful effort to put together a coalition government, almost five months after inconclusive parliamentary elections.
The Communists and the far-right SPD party have negotiated committee posts with Babis’s party but have not agreed on joining the government, the Guardian says.
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