- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2001

The Communist Party of the Czech Republic seems determined to prove that the more it changes, the more it stays the same.
Police in the village of Rakvice recently announced they would begin a formal investigation of a 32-year-old parish priest, Vojtech Vlastimil Protivinsky. His alleged crime was none other than criticizing the Communist Party. And after the village's Communist candidate, Marta Struskova, lost in last fall's senate elections, the chairman of the local party, drawing on an anachronistic law, filed a criminal complaint with the police that accused the priest of "disparaging a nation, race or belief." Her complaint stemmed from a campaign leaflet in which Father Protivinsky said that "The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia presents a grave danger to democracy, to basic human rights and to each one of us." Unsurprisingly, the expression of these words constituted a criminal offense in the eyes of the Communist Party official.
Curiously, though, the communists have accused the young priest of blaming the party for the crimes that the party committed during the Cold War. But by launching the criminal suit against Father Protivinsky, they have proved just how much they resemble that Soviet-style party. Fortunately, President Vaclav Havel intervened, just two days after the police announced their investigation of Father Protivinsky, to block his prosecution.
Even if the Communist Party is unmoved to separate itself from times passed, the Havel administration should be. And, while Mr. Havel wisely chose to block the prosecution of the priest, he should immediately propose eliminating the law that permitted such an absurd investigation.

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