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Karel Srba held on suspicion of contracting murder of journalist

Four people, including former Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Karel Srba, have been arrested for allegedly plotting to have Czech journalist Sabina Slonkova murdered, CTK and international media reported on 22 and 23 July.

Srba was forced to resign from his post in March 2001 after Slonkova, a journalist for the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes," wrote a series of articles describing the suspicious circumstances under which the ministry leased the Cesky Dum (Czech House) in Moscow to a private firm. Srba had submitted the lease contract to then-Foreign Minister Jan Kavan for signing.

Slonkova said on 22 July that her murder was planned for 17 July and that three hired killers intended to shoot her with a pistol and slash her face to prevent identification. According to AP, Srba contracted the assassins through his girlfriend, who is also among those arrested.

...as journalist writes about her ordeal

Writing in "Mlada fronta Dnes" on 23 July, Slonkova said police took her under their protection prior to the planned murder and hid her for 10 days, CTK reported.

On 22 July, CTK, quoting prosecution sources from Ceske Budejovice, reported that police were informed of the plot by one of the potential perpetrators. The man is not among the four detained suspects, who face between 12 and 15 years in prison if convicted. Sources from the Prosecutor-General's Office cited by "Mlada fronta Dnes" said the price that was to be paid for Slonkova's murder was about 500,000 crowns.

A search of Srba's home led to the discovery of two guns, tens of millions of crowns in cash, and photo of Slonkova on the back of which was written "Liquidation." Srba is claiming that the inscription was prompted by his desire to become a journalist and "liquidate" Slonkova professionally, the daily reported. Srba insists he is being framed.

(RFE/RL 26.vii.02)

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