A Czech court has ruled that Prime Minister Andrej Babiš must apologize in writing to MP Miroslav Kalousek for calling him a “drunk” and a “thief” during a heated parliamentary debate in 2018.
Babis lashed out at Kalousek during a debate in Parliament after Kalousek accused Babis of committing perjury in the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) EU subsidy fraud case. Babis said, “I do not know how many per thousands [of alcohol in blood] does the drunkard Kalousek have today, the thief. You will not offend me, and you will not offend my children,” Babis said. Adding that there are recordings of Kalousek in which he is too drunk to speak. “For me, he has always been a symbol of corruption,” Babis said.
The court ruled on the matter today, the verdict is not yet final, and Babiš will appeal according to his lawyer. The judge called it a purely personal attack.
“It is quite evident that the defendant (Babiš) was influenced by a long-term aversion to the plaintiff (Kalousek) and that he clearly pursued the goal of harming the plaintiff and settling personal accounts with him,” Judge Simona Kačerová, District Court Prague-West said.
The judge noted that Babiš lost control of his emotions. “The statements violate the rules of decency that must be adhered to in a civilized society,” the judge added. In a heated parliamentary debate on television, the Prime Minister touched Kalousek and called him a “drunk” and a “thief.” The deputy had previously criticized Babiš for falsely swearing on his children’s health while explaining the Stork’s Nest case.
However, it was not a total victory for Kalousek – the court rejected his request that Babiš admits that his statements were false. Because doubts remain about specific military contracts, which cannot be categorically decided by a civil court, the judge said.
Neither party to the case attended today’s meeting. “It took three years, it is not final, but it still has its meaning. Liars, fraudsters, and slanderers must not give in,” Kalousek told reporters in the Chamber of Deputies. The prime minister has long stated that he told the truth, and he will not apologize.
The court considered, among other things, whether Babiš was personally responsible for the statements or whether he made them as a political body. He leaned towards the first variant. “The statements had no immediate local, factual or temporal connection with the matter before parliament, which was a vote of confidence in the government,” the judge said.
“It must be stated that the defendant (Babiš) relied on incomplete information, from dubious sources. He did not suitably verify his allegations, even though, as Prime Minister, he has the highest, full access to information, “Kačerová said. Babis deliberately distorted the facts, according to the judge.
“For me, this implies one legal sentence: that in future it is not possible to spread fake news through speeches in the Chamber of Deputies, which will undoubtedly contribute to the increase of political culture,” Kalousek’s lawyer Stanislav Balík said.
Babiš’s lawyer Jiří Urbánek thinks that the lawsuit should have been dismissed in its entirety. “The court should have taken into account the circumstances under which the statements were made. It should have taken into account the specifics of the debate in the Chamber of Deputies, in which specific means of expression are used. The parliamentary debate should be protected as much as possible,” he told media. According to him, Kalousek could react politically to the statements, either immediately during the debate or later.
Judge Kačerová also heard another lawsuit against Babiš, which was filed by Jana Filipová, a protester from the A Million Moments for Democracy group. Kačerová agreed that Babiš’s statements in which he said anti-government demonstrators were paid, infringed on the woman’s rights.
However, the ruling was overturned this Wednesday by the Court of Appeals, which said that Babiš does not have to apologize. The judge noted that the statements were not directed at Filipová, but rather a larger group of protesters.