The last boss of the Czechoslovak secret police, Alojz Lorenc, has been given a 15 month suspended sentence for abuse of public office.
Alojz Lorenc, head of the dreaded ŠtB secret police when the communists were overthrown in November 1989, has been given a 15-month suspended sentence for abuse of public office.
A military court in Bratislava ruled on December 5 he had organised the illegal arrest and isolated detention of people at the time of the Velvet Revolution.
Slovak prosecutors were shocked at the leniency of the sentence and immediately appealed the verdict to a higher military court. They then launched a stinging attack on the Czech Office for the Investigation and Documentation of Communist Crimes.
"The negative and completely uninterested stance of the Czech side towards co-operation resulted in only 11 people being called as witnesses against Lorenc. The Czech side many times unprofessionally refused to listen to anyone," said Bohuslav Padrta, head of the Slovak military court prosecution team.
He added that since 1999 his team had called on the office and other state bodies to help and provide information but that "not one of them gave any help whatsoever".
Representatives from the Czech Office for the Investigation and Documentation of Communist Crimes rejected the accusations.
"In 1995 we sent them all materials and offered them witness statements from a number of people," said the office's Pavel Brta.
Lorenc spent 11 months in pre-trial custody in 1990 and was found guilty in 1992 by a court in the Czech town of Tábor. He was sentenced to four years in jail.
But following the split of Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993 the former ŠtB head escaped justice because he lived in Slovakia and refused to return to the Czech Republic to serve the prison sentence. Czech police were powerless to enforce their ruling in another country.
A case against Lorenc was opened in Slovakia in 1995 but stalled in 1998 because of difficulties between the Czech and Slovak authorities on providing material for the case. But in 1999 Slovak prosecutors were allowed to study the documents in Prague and a military court ruled in February last year that the case could go ahead. In October last year Lorenc was formally charged with abuse of power.
After the latest ruling in early December, Lorenc maintained he felt no guilt for what he had done. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge, and said he had acted within the laws of the time during the 1989 revolution.
When contacted by The Slovak Spectator Lorenc said he was too ill to talk about the ruling but that he had not wanted the trial to be held up. Despite his illness he had come to court, he said.
"I didn't want this to go on any longer than necessary, and in spite of the fact that I was very ill I came to court, even though I could have stayed away because of my illness," the former secret police chief said.
Speaking after the ruling he repeated he did not feel guilty: "I have not changed my opinion on what I did." He added he had already apologised to the people he had ordered jailed for what he had done, but refused to say when and how he had done so. He also refused to apologise again.
"If I were to do that I would degrade the act of apologising," he said.
Former dissidents under the communist regime welcomed the guilty verdict, if not the lenient sentence. Czech President Václav Havel, arguably Czechoslovakia's most famous dissident, said the ruling was a further step in the prosecution of people connected to an oppressive regime.
"President Havel believes that all crimes committed by representatives of the former regime must be punished, regardless of the severity of the sentence," his spokesman Ladislav Špaček said.
Another prominent Czech dissident and now deputy head of the Czech senate, Jan Ruml, said the guilty verdict was important.
"It is evidence that Lorenc was part of the repressive regime of the former communist system and that some of his activities were illegal. It is good that the Slovak judge pronounced the guilty verdict," he said.
Lorenc is currently a partner in two information technology firms, Alfa VS and TWIS, in Bratislava.
17. Dec 2001 at 0:00 | Ed Holt