Democracy Digest: Tax Times for Central Europe
Slovak MP accused of sexual abuse resigns; EC launches legal action for the holidays
MP Jan Herak from the ruling OLaNO movement in Slovakia resigned from parliament under pressure from coalition partners, who called on him to step down following growing accusations of child sexual abuse.
Following the first charges against him in late May, which involved Herak sexually assaulting and endangering the moral education of a 14-year-old girl from an orphanage at a summer camp last year, he now faces two more similar charges, TV broadcaster Markiza has revealed.
Another 14-year-old reportedly testified against him and claims to have been assaulted by Herak on several occasions in 2018, also at a summer camp. And police have announced the reopening of a criminal prosecution against Herak from 2018 involving charges of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl who, like the other two alleged victims, lived in an orphanage. Herak was acquitted of all charges at the time, but is again under investigation under instructions from the prosecution.
Herak, 33 and raised in an orphanage himself, is now linked to three separate cases of child abuse. He continues to deny any wrongdoing and claims the accusations are politically motivated and fabricated. “I have a clear conscience,” he told the SME daily. He offered his full cooperation with the police and said it was in his best interests to clarify the allegations.
Following the first charge in May, Herak voluntarily suspended his membership in OLaNO. He was adamant about retaining his parliamentary seat, however, as he hoped the media storm would end. He ultimately canceled his seat in the Legislative Assembly after coalition partners SaS and Za Ludi called on him to leave parliament. The nail in his coffin was Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s indirect suggestion that Herak should bow out. “Given the sensitivity of this issue, I would resign my parliamentary seat in its place,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.
OLANO subsequently called Herak’s resignation “a good solution to calm the situation” and “an appropriate response to the gravity of the accusations”. But Parliament Speaker Boris Kollar, of the coalition’s biggest partner Sme Rodina, took a different view, saying that other parties “have no right to tell Herak what to do” and accused SaS and Za Ludi of “playing by moral standards”.
The former MP has been running summer camps for children for around 15 years while also leading a civic organization helping young people in orphanages. “If I had done anything the way I am slandered by some media, I wouldn’t have the trust of many orphanage directors. 11,000 children have passed through my camps throughout the year. I categorically reject the accusations which have unfortunately fallen on me, ”he said.
Elsewhere, the European Commission has sued Slovakia over a missing legal provision that would allow vacationers to claim compensation for trips canceled under extraordinary circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Dennik E.
EU law guarantees travelers a 14-day refund period in special situations, but Slovak law has yet to catch up. Instead, it gives people the option of agreeing to an amended travel contract or other travel arrangement. Cash Back Rewards will only be available after August 31 of this year.
The Commission warned the Slovak government of the breach last summer and Parliament was supposed to have discussed the legal amendments in March this year, but failed to do so.
Meanwhile, former agriculture minister Jan Micovsky, who resigned on May 25 following corruption charges against one of his candidates, suddenly changed his mind and announced his intention to stay after receiving an avalanche of messages of support urging him “not to flee the fight”. But his successor, Samuel Vlcan, had in the meantime been chosen and duly appointed by President Zuzana Caputova.