Two young people were killed and another seriously injured when their car collided with an oncoming train in the early hours of Saturday. The accident occurred around 2.30 am when five young people returning from a disco in their old Skoda car either failed to see or disregarded the warning lights at a rail crossing. Two young women died on the spot and another passenger suffered serious injuries. Police are investigating the incident. The number of Czechs killed in rail crossing-collisions annually has evoked much concern and the police have repeatedly appealed to drivers not to ignore the warning lights.
Several human rights groups have asked President Vaclav Klaus to bring up the issue of human rights violations during his official visit to China next week. Olympic Watch, Amnesty International, Lungta and People in Need have written a joint letter to the Czech President asking him to speak up on behalf of five concrete political prisoners in China and to urge the Chinese leadership to ratify an international agreement on civic rights and political freedoms which it signed some time ago. President Klaus and his wife Livia are due to begin their official visit to China on April 15th.
A Czech ski alpinist who was seriously injured in an avalanche in the Slovak High Tatras on Friday has died. He and a friend were climbing the Rysy peak when the avalanche hit and both were swept down to the bottom of a valley where the local helicopter rescue service found them. Despite the fact that the helicopter was close by and provided immediate assistance one of the alpinists was dead on the spot, the other was rushed to a hospital with serious head injuries. He lived for only a few more hours. The High Tatras, Slovakia's highest mountains, have proved a treacherous challenge for many - six Czech mountaineers lost their lives there since the beginning of this year.
The police have arrested two drug peddlers operating at a Czech mountain resort. The men, aged 23 and 25, had three kilograms of hashish in their possession and supplied primarily foreign tourists. Both were employees of a mountain chalet and have admitted to the crime. They allegedly intended to use the money for a luxury holiday in Spain. They both face a sentence of up to ten years in prison.
There is controversy within the Czech police force over a plan to establish an official list of police informers. Police officers argue that establishing a network of trusty informers takes a long time and the existence of an official list would scare many of them away. They claim that establishing such a list would take the Czech Republic back to the communist years when the police had lists of informers as well as lists of agents. However the police presidium is insistent, saying that although it understands officers' concerns the present practice of each officer guarding his contacts is proving costly and inefficient. Whenever an officer leaves, we loose all his informers and different police units often look for informers in the same circles although there are already available contacts, the police president argued.
President Klaus has vetoed a bill on value added tax and a bill on real estate tax, which are a crucial part of the government's fiscal reforms. The country needs the bills to be approved and come into force before its accession to the EU in May. The president's spokesman said Mr. Klaus considered both bills to be a bad mixture of measures that would have serious consequences for Czech citizens and businesses. The finance ministry has refused to comment on the President's decision, saying that it counted on Parliament to overturn the Presidential veto in time for the laws to take effect on May 1st.
The Senate has approved a draft amendment to the nature and landscape protection bill which provides for the creation of some 40 European Natura-type protected areas. The amendment, which the Czech Republic has been asked to pass by the European Union before its accession on May 1, provides mainly for the declaration of "bird reserves" where the protection of endangered bird species would be ensured. The opposition Civic Democrats are opposed to the amendment saying that it restricts the rights of land owners. The Natura 2000 project aims to create a continuous European environmental system of specially protected areas with endangered species of birds and protected animals, plants and habitats.
Senator Richard Falbr has stressed the need to fill the posts of all 15 Constitutional court judges. He said the country was experiencing a drawn-out constitutional crisis as the Constitutional Court was paralyzed by the vacancies. The controversy between President Klaus, whose task it is to nominate constitutional court judges, and the Senate, which must approve them, exploded with full force on Thursday when one of the senators accused the President of treason for his failure to produce what he called "acceptable nominees". This happened after the Senate rejected yet another candidate -Milan Gavlas - on the grounds that he had a narrow area of expertise and had spent 23 years in the communist party. Senator Falbr on Friday attempted to play down the controversy, saying that he considered the accusation of treason foolish and inappropriate and could understand the President's anger in response to the news. He said the President's next nominee Stanislav Balik was a good choice and would probably gain approval. Four out of fifteen posts of Constitutional court judges remain to be filled.
Police say they detained a group of illegal immigrants on Thursday morning, close to the town of Hodonin, South Moravia. The group of refugees from Chechnya and Armenia had successfully crossed the bridge over the Morava River - a natural border between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Half of the group were young children between the ages of two and four. One child, bleeding from a wound on the neck, had to be taken to hospital for treatment, a police spokesperson said.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda met his French counterpart Michel Barnier in Paris on Thursday to discuss the two countries' business and trade relations, the European Union Constitution and also the current situation in Iraq. Mr Barnier said after the meeting that the situation in Iraq was extremely serious and could be resolved only if Iraqi citizens, the countries of the region and the international community increase their efforts. He said that an international conference of all involved countries and organisations would be especially useful. Mr Svoboda said the Czech Republic was against any individual action and supported a solution agreed on by the European Union and the United States. Mr Svoboda ended his two-day visit to France on Thursday afternoon.
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