The final depositions have been heard in the trial of two former high-ranking communist officials. Milous Jakes, who is now 80, and Jozef Lenart, 79, face charges of assisting treason, for their part in the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. The two men attempted to 'legalise' the invasion by forming a 'workers' government. A verdict in the trial is expected on Monday.
Great Britain deported some 48 Czech asylum seekers on Friday and plans to deport more in the coming week, Ladislav Balaz of the Trans Europa Roma Federation told reporters. Meanwhile, the British Home Office said it had flown 28 Czech citizens home two weeks ago. The number of Czechs seeking asylum in Britain - most of whom are Romanies - is constantly increasing, according to UK authorities. The Romanies say they suffer violence and constant discrimination in the Czech Republic.
President Vaclav Havel, who is on a six-day official visit to the United States, has visited the site of the World Trade Center in New York. Mr Havel said that the September 11 attacks had been an attack not only on the United States but on the whole of humanity and civilisation. President Havel was also due to hold talks with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. A reception is being held in Mr Havel's honour on Friday evening, and will feature a concert involving Placido Domingo, Lou Reed and former US president Bill Clinton.
The Czech senate has unanimously approved a bill that should allow Czechs to vote in a referendum next year to decide the Czech Republic's entry to the European Union. Submitted on Thursday by members of the Senate Commission for the Constitution, the draft amendment outlines the rules for Czech EU accession; under the bill, the referendum will be held 3 months following the signature of the Czech Republic's signing of the EU accession treaty, set to take place in the first half of 2003. Czech parliament must now also pass the bill; a failure to do so would leave the decision on EU accession up to parliament alone.
Leaders of all three parties in the Czech ruling coalition signed an amendment to their coalition agreement on Wednesday to end a crisis threatening the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. The coalition came close to breaking apart last Friday, when an MP from the right-of-centre Freedom Union voted against the government's tax reform bill, designed to raise money to pay for damage caused by the recent devastating floods. To punish the party for the renegade deputy, Mr Spidla initially planned to sack all three Freedom Union cabinet members. But he changed his mind after the Freedom Union threatened to pull out of the coalition. The new agreement calls for more discussion in future among the parties ahead of key votes. In exchange, the Freedom Union has guaranteed that all 10 of its members in the lower house will vote along government lines on key issues.
Before his departure Mr Havel said he would be pushing for NATO to take in seven post-Communist states in meetings with senior U.S. officials. The Czech President said he wanted NATO to accept Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the three Baltic states at its forthcoming summit in Prague. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became the first post-Communist countries to join the alliance in 1999.
President Vaclav Havel, who's on a state visit to the United States, has met the US President George Bush in the White House for talks on the fight against terrorism and the upcoming NATO summit which will take place in Prague. Representatives of 19 NATO members together with other 27 countries participating in the Partnership for Peace programme will meet in the Czech capital at the end of November. Mr Havel is accompanied on his visit by Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, the Czech Ambassador to the US, Martin Palous, and the NATO summit chief organiser, Alexander Vondra. Taking part in the talks are also Mr Bush's National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Craig Stapleton.
Before his departure Mr Havel said he would be pushing for NATO to take in seven post-Communist states in meetings with senior U.S. officials. The Czech President said he wanted NATO to accept Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the three Baltic states at its forthcoming summit in Prague. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became the first post-Communist countries to join the alliance in 1999. The Czech Air Force said on Tuesday that U.S. jets would take part in the security operation for the summit.
Two former high ranking communist party officials are on trial for their part in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Milous Jakes, former general secretary of the Czechoslovak communist party and Jozef Lenart, former communist prime minister, face charges of treason for attempting to legalize the Soviet led invasion through the formation of a "workers' government" which would have replaced the existing government. The proposal was rejected by the former Czechoslovak president Ludvik Svoboda . Both officials, now in their 80s, plead innocent of the charges leveled against them. Mr. Lenart said in his defense that he had been informed about the plan to form a workers' government by Soviet embassy officials and had merely relayed the proposal to then President Svoboda. The court case has generated enormous media interest.
In a related development Hana Marvanova on Monday resigned from the post of deputy speaker of Parliament. She did so under pressure from her own party, the Freedom Union, after jeopardizing its position in the ruling coalition. Although the party has asked Mrs Marvanova to resign her deputy post in Parliament as well, she refuses to do so on the grounds that as deputy she is answerable to her electorate and must abide by her election promises .
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