NEWS BRIEFS

Parliamentary committee votes to lift amnesty from former minister Krajči

A parliamentary committee has recommended that parliament grant a police request and strip the protective shield of immunity from onetime Interior Minister Gustáv Krajči (HZDS) for two separate alleged criminal acts.

On February 15, the Parliamentary Mandate and Immunity Committee recommended that parliament allow Krajči's prosecution for his role in hampering the preparation and course of the 1997 NATO and direct presidential election referendum. Of the 18 deputies present at the meeting, ten voted for lifting immunity, six were against and two abstained from voting.

On the following day, the committee further recommended that Krajči stand trial for approving 130,000 Sk in illegal bonus payments to former state secretary Ladislav Polka when Polka left his position. Of the 10 committee members present, 6 voted for lifting Krajci's immunity. No HZDS deputy attended the vote.

The recommendations were debated in parliament on February 18, but no decision had been made before press time.

Krajči remained calm. "The committee had the right to do what it did, and life goes on. The proceedings are just starting," he told the Slovak state news agency TASR immediately after the vote.

According to Slovak law, no sitting member of parliament can be prosecuted for criminal acts - even murder - committed while in office. In order for an MP to be prosecuted, parliament must first vote to lift his immunity by a constitutional majority, or 90 deputies out of the 150 who sit in the chamber. Member of parliament who lose their immunity do not lose their parliamentary mandates unless found guilty before the courts.

Krajči served as Interior Minister in the 1994-1998 government of Vladimír Mečiar. He is accused of misusing his powers as a public official in both cases brought before the Immunity Committee.

On February 1 Jaroslav Ivor, head of the Interior Ministry Investigation Section, announced that a police investigator would ask parliament to allow the criminal prosecution of Krajči. The committee was then convened to debate the matter.

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