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Czech Republic: Deputy Urges Review Of Awards Process After Scandal

Prague, 27 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Czech Senate Chairman Petr Pithart has called for a full review of the procedure for awarding state decorations, to avoid a repeat of what he terms the embarrassment surrounding the nomination of former Vienna mayor Helmut Zilk.

Pithart made the call last night while in New York.

Zilk was scheduled to be awarded the Order of the White Lion by Czech President Vaclav Havel tomorrow, the highest Czech honor that can be conferred on a foreigner.

But Havel last week suddenly withdrew the offer. An article then appeared in Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, charging that Zilk had worked for the Czechoslovak Secret Police from 1953 to 1969. Separately, Vaclav Benda, the former head of the Czech Office for the Documentation and Research into the Crimes of Communism also alleged he had information proving Zilk had cooperated with the former Czechoslovak Secret Police.

Zilk has vehemently denied the charges and the case has caused a political uproar in Prague, with Havel criticizing the timing of the revelations. Havel's spokesman yesterday admitted Zilk had not been subjected to a background check when he was nominated for the award.