Czech president to reconsider judge’s appointment due to information of his communist-era verdicts

Following disclosures about the judge’s verdicts during the communist era, Czech President Petr Pavel will reconsider his appointment of Robert Fremr.

Pavel halted Fremr’s appointment earlier this week after learning that the judge’s involvement in political proceedings in the 1980s was more substantial than previously revealed, IntelliNews reported.

“I have requested access to relevant information and sources in this matter,” Pavel said in a thread on Twitter. “I have no intention of re-examining any decision, but I do not want to disregard […] previously unexamined information.”

On August 6, progressive senator and former presidential candidate Marek Hilser tweeted, “Fremr did not speak the truth in front of the Senate when he said that he did not sentence anyone for political reasons during the totalitarian era.” 

The Senate hearing is a step in appointing Constitutional Court judges.

Hilser stated that in 1983-85, Fremr convicted over 100 people for fleeing Communist Czechoslovakia. These judgments resulted in the confiscation of the emigrants’ property, and their families in Czechoslovakia experienced social and political consequences.

Several Senators also examined a 1988 case in which Fremer sentenced three youngsters to 5-8 years in jail for 100 offences, including vandalising the graves of Soviet and Bulgarian soldiers in Prague’s Olsany cemetery. 

According to the investigative website HlidaciPes, witnesses in the case were coerced into testifying by the Czechoslovak secret service StB, which Fremr claims he was unaware of.

According to Czech Radio, the entire incident is an embarrassment to Pavel’s office, which stated on social media that “building a strong and independent Constitutional Court is one of my most important tasks.”

Picking Constitutional Court judges, along with choosing the Czech Central Bank board, is one of the most influential components of the Czech President’s otherwise primarily ceremonial function. The nominees were selected by Pavel’s office and presented to the Senate.

In the democratic era, Fremr had a remarkable judicial career. He was a Supreme Court justice and a former International Criminal Court judge.

The scandal has reignited public debates about the communist past. Pavel is a former Communist Party member who received criticism for entering special units of the Czechoslovak military in the 1980s.

Critics argue that Fremr must have been well familiar with the functioning of the court system in the 1980s. 

However, given the massive breadth of society’s engagement in the daily procedures of the normalisation era communist dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s, it is challenging to examine everyone. But the judges from that era shouldn’t be given Constitutional Court seats, say many experts.

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