PRAGUE (Reuters) - A Slovak court ruled on Thursday that Czech Finance Minster Andrej Babis did not knowingly collaborate with the Communist secret police of former Czechoslovakia in the 1980s.
The ruling removes a point of tension in the Czech three-party ruling coalition that includes Babis's ANO movement along with the Social Democrats and Christian Democats that took power in January.
Under Czech law, some civil servants must show they have no ties to the Communist government that ruled Czechoslovakia for four decades until the Velvet Revolution of 1989 overthrew it peacefully. The country split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993.
It has become customary for government ministers to do the same, although lawyers differ about whether this is necessary under the law.
The secret police, like its Soviet counterpart the KGB or East Germany's Stasi, was feared by citizens because of its unchecked power to crush anybody who did not follow the official line of the Communist party and state.
Babis had sued the Slovak Institute of National Memory demanding his name be erased from a list of secret police collaborators that was in its archives. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
A Slovak district court judge said evidence did not establish that Babis had delivered information to the secret police and there is no document signed by him that would prove his collaboration.
"I really did not collaborate with the secret police," Babis told Czech Television. "I was listed there wrongfully and it could not turn out otherwise because I have never signed anything and I have done nothing wrong."
He did not attend the hearing on Thursday.
Babis, a Slovak-born billionaire with Czech citizenship who has built up the country's largest food, agricultural and chemical company in the past two decades, founded the anti-graft ANO movement in 2011 which surprised by winning a close second in October's election.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Janet Lawrence)