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Czech upper house votes to impeach president Klaus

Czech President Vaclav Klaus arrives at the airport of Santiago to attend the summit of the Community of Latin American, Caribbean States and European Union (CELAC-UE), January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Claudio Reyes

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The upper house of the Czech parliament impeached outgoing President Vaclav Klaus for treason on Monday, a dramatic but largely symbolic act showing the deep divisions the eurosceptic leader opened up within Czech society.

The decision by the Senate, dominated by left-wing opponents of Klaus, refers the president to the Constitutional Court to rule whether he violated the constitution by granting a wide-ranging amnesty in January, and other acts.

Four senators told reporters the house voted 38 to 30 in a closed session to bring charges against the president.

The biggest punishment he faces, if found guilty, is losing office, a presidential pension and the right to run again some time in the future.

That is mild given Klaus’s second term runs out this Thursday, but would be a blow to the legacy of the right-wing politician who has angered some in Europe with his eurosceptic views.

The amnesty angered most Czechs because it ended the prosecution of many people who were investigated for economic crimes such as embezzlement, a sore point in a country where corruption and fraud has topped political debate for years.

The senators also accuse Klaus of flouting the constitution by refusing to ratify European treaties, and for declining to rule on the appointment of judges despite being ordered by courts to do so.

One charge by the Senate is Klaus has refused altogether to ratify a plan to set up the ESM bailout fund for euro zone countries, despite the plan being ratified by parliament. That decision, however, did not stop the fund from being created.

Reporting by Robert Mueller; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Jon Hemming