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Czech court clears ex-PM's aide in scandal that toppled government

PRAGUE (Reuters) - A Prague court on Friday cleared the ex-aide and current wife of former Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas of abuse of power in a spying case that toppled the government in 2013.

Prosecutors immediately appealed the ruling, after seeking a three to four-year sentence for Jana Necasova, formerly Nagyova, for illegally ordering the military intelligence service in 2012 to follow Necas’s then-wife Radka.

Spying scandals led to the resignation of Necas’s centre-right government and cleared the way for the left to return to power after almost eight years in opposition.

Wide-ranging investigations also involved allegations of corruption of three members of parliament and illegal connections between businessmen and the prime minister’s office.

Most have born no fruit or been halted.

The Prague court judge did not make public the reasons for her verdict on the grounds that it involved state secrets. The court also cleared two former heads of military intelligence and one officer.

Necasova had been found guilty in an earlier hearing and given a suspended one-year sentence. Both the prosecutors and her lawyer appealed, leading to a full trial.

Necas, once dubbed “Mr Clean” by media, has said he knew nothing about spying but stepped down in June 2013 amid the controversies, which led to a snap election that the Social Democrats won.

The vote also ushered into power the centrist, anti-graft ANO movement of billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, who has capitalised on voter anger over corruption to become one of the most popular politicians in the central European nation of 10.5 million.

The Social Democrats, led by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, have ruled in a centre-left coalition with Babis’s movement and the Christian Democrats since January 2014.

The cabinet has undone many of the unpopular austerity measures taken under Necas’s administration and raised spending while keeping debt under control. It is benefiting from an economic recovery that has made the Czech Republic one of the fastest-growing members of the European Union.

Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; editing by Andrew Roche