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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Czech official guilty of hiring killer
By Alix Kroeger
BBC, Prague

Karel Srba
Srba will appeal the verdict
A former senior official in the Czech Foreign Ministry has been convicted of ordering the contract killing of a journalist whose investigations cost him his job.

Karel Srba, the ministry's former general secretary, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

The murder was never carried out because the contract killer changed his mind and went to the police instead.

This case reaches into the very highest levels of the Czech Government.

Mr Srba lost his job two years ago, because of reports published in a Czech newspaper exposing his involvement with dubious property deals.

The reports were written by an investigative journalist named Sabina Slonkova.

Wider repercussions

Jan Kavan
Kavan has distanced himself from the affair
When the police raided Mr Srba's home they found a picture of Sabina Slonkova with the word "liquidate" scrawled across the back, two hand guns and more than $1m in cash.

Following the verdict, Mr Srba protested his innocence and said he would appeal.

But the repercussions go wider still.

Mr Srba was an aide to Jan Kavan, at the time the Czech foreign minister and now the president of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Mr Kavan has distanced himself from the affair.

Nonetheless, the case has cast an unfavourable light on the inner workings of the ministry at a time when the Czech Republic is preparing for European integration.

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