Czech lower house committee suspends discussion of stripping ultranationalist MP of immunity from prosecution for xenophobic remarks
The Immunity and Mandate Commitee of the Czech lower house suspended its review Tuesday of a police request to strip Czech MP Karla Maříková ("Freedom and Direct Democracy" - SPD) of immunity from prosecution, saying it will be inviting her to its next session to express her perspective on the matter and also that it wants to see the file that the police have compiled on the case. Czech MP Stanislav Grospič (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia - KSČM), the committee chair, informed journalists of the decision on 10 March.
Police want to charge Maříková because of remarks she made about migrants. The committee will send a recommendation to the Chamber of Deputies as to whether it should accommodate the police request or not.
In addition to Maříková, the committee will be inviting the prosecutor and the police detective in charge of the case to testify, but they must first be released from their confidentiality agreements. For that reason, according to the chair, it is not yet clear when the committee session on the police request will continue.
In January 2019, Maříková compared migrants to "invasive" species of animals and plants in a post to her Facebook profile and said they should be banned from entering the European Union. Police later began to review her remarks as suspected incitement to hatred.
"It is banned to import invasive, non-indigenous species of plants and animals to EU territory. Muslim immigrants also are not indigenous inhabitants of Europe and just like invasive species they portend their own unanticipated dissemination and the gradual displacement of the indigenous inhabitants of Europe," the MP posted more than a year ago to her Facebook profile.
"For that reason they should also be banned from entering EU territory," Maříková opined. The opposition SPD movement has backed its MP and called the police request that she be stripped of immunity for prosecution a de facto attempt at criminalizing publicly-stated anti-immigrant attitudes.
Doubts about the matter have been expressed by some other members of the committee, although they disagree with the MP's remarks. According to the statements made by her fellow politicians, it appears the Chamber of Deputies will not be handing Maříková over to the police.
Czech MP Miroslav Kalousek called her remarks repugnant, but said he would consider prosecuting her on the basis of the remarks a dangerous precedent for the future. "I do not believe that an MP should be prosecuted for public remarks while in office, " he tweeted.
"That could be a dangerous precedent. It is possible to read far more disgusting remarks on social networks daily that the Parliament of the Czech Republic stays calm about," Kalousek tweeted.
"Those remarks are absolutely condemnable and outrageous, but this is political speech that we should consider immune from prosecution," the head of the TOP 09 party, Czech MP Markéta Adamová, was reported as saying by news server iDNES.cz. A similar opinion was expressed by the vice-chair of the Mayors and Independents (STAN), Czech MP Věra Kovářová.
"Personally I do not approve of this and I think it is a testament to what kind of person this is. However, a large number of similar remarks of that sort are circulating on social networks," the STAN vice-chair said.
"I don't think an MP should be prosecuted for public remarks. Speaking for myself, I will not support stripping her immunity," Kovářová added.
Communist MP Zdeněk Ondráček also said that Maříková should not be stripped of immunity. During this election period two other MPs have faced the threat of prosecution, Zdeněk Ondráček (KSČM) and Miloslav Rozner (SPD).
Police wanted to charge Ondráček because of remarks he made about former Czech presidential candidate Michal Horáček. Ondráček accused the candidate in remarks to the media of having collaborated with the communist-era State Security services (StB).
Rozner was sought for prosecution because of remarks about the Protectorate-era concentration camp for Roma at Lety u Písku. When criticizing the decision of the then-Government to buy out the industrial pig farm because it overlaps with territory that should be a cultural heritage site, the SPD MP used the phrase "non-existent pseudo-concentration camp" to refer to the place being honored.
The Chamber of Deputies did not strip either of those MPs of immunity. That decision by the lower house means police can prosecute these cases once these individuals are no longer politicians protected by parliamentary immunity.
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