Military cop suspended for TV raid

Czech defense ministry had sought documents

The head of the Czech military police and two senior officers have been suspended after masked and armed troops raided the country’s pubcaster during a live news broadcast Friday.

The raid was part of a court-ordered probe into leaks of military documents about the resignation of a former head of the military police in 2007. It was supposed to gather evidence for a criminal investigation into Czech Television on the suspicion that it had broken the law by threatening to release classified information.

Instead, the raid was captured live on the evening news.

Images of the troops, wearing combat helmets, camouflage uniforms and armed with assault rifles, were broadcast as they moved through the news rooms confiscating computers, data storage equipment, editors’ notes and documents during the five-hour raid, which failed to turn up any evidence.

Brigadier Vladimir Lozek and the senior commanders were temporarily relieved of duties after the Czech defense ministry ordered a probe into the incident.

The investigation, which will be carried out by the military police themselves, will look into behavior, armaments and number of troops used and the suitability of the raid’s timing.

A separate civilian probe will also be carried out by the state attorney’s office.

The raid drew fire from Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas and even the judge who ordered it.

Judge Krystof Novy told Czech daily paper Mlada Fronta Dnes that he had given permission to “confiscate one document, possibly a copy of it, or perhaps a folder in which it may have been, but not to empty one whole office room.”

The judge added that he had expected at the most four unarmed uniformed officers to turn up for the search.

The raid was criticized Monday by media freedom organization, the Intl. Press Institute, which said it threatened the rights of journalists to protect their sources.

Czech TV demanded “a thorough investigation into the attack on the independence of a public television service and that those behind this unprecedented action take responsibility.”