Czechs mark an­niver­sary of Vel­vet Rev­o­lu­tion

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front - By KAREL JANICEK

PRAGUE — About a quar­ter of a mil­lion Czechs gath­ered on the 30th an­niver­sary of the Vel­vet Rev­o­lu­tion that brought an end to decades of com­mu­nist rule in the coun­try to give Prime Min­is­ter An­drej Babis an ul­ti­ma­tum — sell your business or quit your job.

Pro­test­ers from across the Czech Repub­lic at­tended Satur­day’s demon­stra­tion, the sec­ond mas­sive protest op­pos­ing Babis at Letna park, the scene of mas­sive gath­er­ings in 1989 that greatly con­tributed to the fall of com­mu­nism.

Po­lice es­ti­mated some 250,000 peo­ple at­tended the demon­stra­tion.

The de­mon­stra­tors see the pop­ulist bil­lion­aire and his ally, pro-Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Mi­los Ze­man as a threat to democ­racy. They have given Babis a dead­line of Dec. 31 to get rid of his business and me­dia em­pire or re­sign.

“We won’t give up un­til you’re gone,” said Miku­las Mi­nar, a stu­dent who put his stud­ies on hold to lead a group called Mil­lion Mo­ments for Democ­racy that or­ga­nizes the demon­stra­tions against Babis.

Babis was re­quired to trans­fer own­er­ship of his busi­nesses that in­cludes a con­glom­er­ate of some 250 com­pa­nies and two ma­jor news­pa­pers to two trust funds in Fe­bru­ary 2017.

But his crit­ics, in­clud­ing Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional, say he still main­tains con­trol and a pre­lim­i­nary Euro­pean Union re­port leaked to me­dia con­cluded the same, say­ing Babis is in a po­si­tion to in­flu­ence the EU sub­si­dies com­pa­nies re­ceive.

Babis de­nies wrong­do­ing and says there’s no rea­son for him to re­sign.

“It’s great that peo­ple can ex­press their view and no­body per­se­cutes and at­tacks them,” Babis said.

Over 250,000 were at the pre­vi­ous rally at the same place in June which was con­sid­ered the big­gest anti-govern­ment protest since the end of com­mu­nism.

“Re­sign, re­sign,” the crowd chanted, fac­ing a ban­ner on the big stage that read “We want healthy democ­racy.”

Babis also faces al­le­ga­tions that he col­lab­o­rated with Cze­choslo­vakia’s se­cret po­lice be­fore 1989, and has been crit­i­cized for his govern­ment’s power-shar­ing deal he signed July 10 last year that gave the Com­mu­nist Party a role in gov­ern­ing for the first time since the Vel­vet Rev­o­lu­tion.

AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Peo­ple take part in a large anti-govern­ment protest in Prague, Czech Repub­lic, Satur­day.

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