Thousands join fresh rallies against Czech government

Prague (AFP) –


Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Prague Tuesday as demonstrations gather momentum against the new justice minister over concerns she could clear the prime minister of fraud allegations.

Organisers from the "Million Moments for Democracy" group said turnout was in the tens of thousands, the biggest in a series of rallies to put pressure on Justice Minister Marie Benesova.

Demonstrators are concerned she could clear billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who was charged last year in connection with a two-million-euro EU subsidy scam. Police called on prosecutors to indict him last month.

If found guilty, Babis could be jailed for up to 10 years.

He has repeatedly rejected the allegations against him as a plot and politically inspired.

People in the crowds that filled the city's Wenceslas Square carried placards that read: "Independent Justice!", "Resign!" and "Shame!"

Babis's populist ANO emerged as the biggest party in October 2017 legislative elections with 78 of 200 seats in the lower house of parliament.

ANO joined forces with the CSSD Social Democratic party to form a minority government, supported by the communists.

Benesova, 71, was the Czech justice minister in 2013-2014 and the country's chief prosecutor in 1999-2005.