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article imageCzech protests against minister linked to under-fire PM

By AFP     Apr 29, 2019 in World

Thousands of Czechs marched Monday against the nomination of a new justice minister seen as an ally of billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis who faces allegations of involvement in an EU aid scandal.

Marie Benesova is a former member of the Social Democratic CSSD party which now supports Babis in parliament.

She is expected to be named justice minister on Tuesday by President Milos Zeman, who is also seen as close to the premier.

Protesters shouted slogans "Independent Justice," "We are not blind," "We want an honest government," as they carried Czech and EU flags in protests across the country organised by the Million Moments for Democracy NGO.

"We fear that the prime minister might escape justice," said the NGO's Mikulas Minar, who has organised several demonstrations against Babis and the president.

Organisers said similar protests were held in 100 towns across the country.

Benesova, 71, who was justice minister in 2013-2014 and chief prosecutor in 1999-2005, will replace Jan Knezinek.

Just before he resigned earlier this month, the police recommended that Babis be charged with fraud in connection with a two-million-euro EU subsidy scam.

If found guilty, the prime minister could be jailed for up to 10 years.

Babis is the Czech Republic's second wealthiest man, according to Forbes, having built his fortune in agro-chemicals.

He has consistently rejected the accusations against him as a plot and politically inspired.

His populist party ANO emerged as the biggest party in October 2017 legislative elections with 78 of 200 seats in the lower house where it joined forces with the CSSD social democrats to form a minority government supported by the communists.

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