As the Czech Republic heads to the polls in elections for the European parliament, the biggest protests in the country since 1989 continue, with 50,000 people this week taking to Wenceslas Square to demand the dismissal of the justice minister Marie Benešová. The crowd waved Czech and European Union flags and signs that read: “You can’t break justice” and “I am ashamed of my prime minister”.
Mrs Benešová was appointed to lead the ministry after the resignation of her predecessor Jan Kněžínek and will now have significant control over prosecutions, with protesters afraid that she will try to protect prime minister Andrej Babiš (pictured above), who potentially faces a trial for misuse of European Union funds.
Mr Babiš is accused of using the funds to build a luxury resort worth two million euros. Police last month called on prosecutors to indict him. If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to 10 years. However, Mrs Benešová was among those people who did not support lifting Babiš’ parliamentary immunity. Additionally, she has already served as justice minister in a caretaker government appointed by Czech president Miloš Zeman, an ally of Mr Babiš.
The prime minister has rejected the fraud case as a plot fabricated by his opponents to destroy his political career and said that the demonstrations were part of a political campaign by rivals before the European parliamentary elections.