The deputy leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Lubomir Zaoralek, said the amnesty is a sign that ‘‘the state stands behind organized crime.’’ Zaoralek, who says several presidential advisers have links to some of those covered by the pardon, asked Klaus to reveal who drafted the document for him. His request was rejected.
As the Czech president occupies a largely ceremonial post, the right to grant amnesty seems inappropriate to many. But there are precedents.
During his presidency, Vaclav Havel, a much-loved dissident playwright who helped topple communism, used it three times. In 1990, he ordered the release of some 23,000 prisoners in an attempt — criticized by the public then — to draw a line under more than 40 years of communism that ended in the 1989 peaceful Velvet Revolution.
But to free those charged with corruption is the last straw in a country that has taken an increasingly hard line against graft.
Many Czechs have been showing their indignation with corruption in unusual ways. CorruptTour, a travel agency established last year that organizes trips to places linked to corruption, has been doing a roaring trade under its slogan: ‘‘the best of the worst.’’
Some 40 people joined the tour Thursday, braving piercing cold, frost and snow. They burst into laughter when Eva Cechova, a tour guide, quipped in front of the presidential office that the amnesty was ‘‘the biggest achievement of Klaus’ presidency.’’
Vanda Koleckova, a 23-year-old student, was among them. She said she hopes the constitutional court overturns the decree.
‘‘It’s very Czech to make fun of the unbelievable scope of corruption,’’ she said. ‘‘Humor is a way for us Czechs to deal with that.’’