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Czech government signs deals to compensate churches for property seized by Communists

The Czech government has signed deals with representatives of 16 churches to pay them billions of dollars in compensation for property that the country's former totalitarian Communist regime seized from them.

After Friday's signing, Prime Minister Petr Necas called the deals to pay 59 billion koruna ($3.1 billion) in financial compensation over the next 30 years "an act of justice."

The state, meanwhile, will gradually stop covering the churches' expenses over the next 17 years.

The payment is part of a religious restitution plan approved by Parliament. Under it, the churches, including Roman Catholic and Protestant ones, also will get back 56 percent of their former property now held by the state — valued at 75 billion koruna ($3.9 billion).

The opposition has challenged the plan at the Constitution Court.