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Diplomat convicted for conspiring to murder journalist

New York, July 1, 2003--A Czech court yesterday convicted the former general secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Karel Srba, of plotting to murder Sabina Slonkova, an investigative reporter for the independent Prague daily Mlada Fronta Dnes.

According to local and international press reports, a regional court in the southern city of Ceske Budejovice convicted Srba of illegal possession of weapons and conspiring to blow up Slonkova with plastic explosives. Srba was sentenced to eight years in a maximum-security prison, the CTK news agency reported.

Srba maintained his innocence throughout the trail and immediately appealed the verdict to the High Court in the capital, Prague.

Four co-defendants were also convicted in the trail and received sentences ranging from six years in prison to a two-year suspended sentence.

Background
On July 22, 2002, police announced that they had uncovered an assassination plot against Slonkova. They arrested Srba and three accomplices after being tipped off by one of the would-be assassins.

Srba had been forced to resign from his position as general secretary of the Foreign Ministry in March 2001 after Slonkova and a colleague published a series of articles implicating him in a financial corruption scandal.




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