The Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach has said he would resign if he fails to push through higher pensions and family benefits for next year. Under a coalition agreement pensions should grow by 500 to 600 crowns and benefits for families with children should also increase by several hundred crowns. Altogether the higher pensions and benefits should cost the state an additional 13 to 14 billion crowns. According to minister Skromach the state can afford it since state budget revenues are growing.
Survivors of traffic accident victims, whose death has been caused by others, will now receive one-off compensation ranging from 80,000 to 240,000 crowns. Under a new insurance law the compensation will be paid out automatically from the insurance of the person who caused the accident. In the past survivors had to laboriously claim the compensation with courts. The highest amount would go to close family members or people living in a common household.
The Plzen regional court met on Monday to decide whether to re-open the case of Jiri Kajinek, whom it had sentenced to life for the contract murder of two people in 1998. The court is to decide whether to reopen the case on the basis of new testimonies. Of the three witnesses who testified on Monday, two claimed that they were certain Kajinek was not the killer. There have been allegations in recent months that Kajinek may have been framed by the police. Kajinek himself has never confessed to the murders. His case evoked great public interest, especially after he managed to escape from a top security prison in the year 2,000.
A police spokeswoman has confirmed that last month the Czech police stopped a number of illegal arms and ammunition shipments to Iraq and several Asian and African countries. Two Czechs were arrested and charged with violating laws on trade in weapons and the police confiscated a large number of ammunition and machine guns. Some of the ammunition was apparently destined for Iraq government units but Czech intelligence was afraid it could fall into the hands of anti-government forces.
A Prague court of appeal has overturned a three year prison sentence for an officer of the former communist secret service to a five year suspended sentence. Petr Zak was involved in the so called Asanace clearance operation aimed against dissidents of the former communist regime. They were persecuted and physically and emotionally abused with the aim of making them flee from their homeland. The former communist interior minister Jaromir Obzina who ordered the operation is dead and was never punished for the deed. Former stb officers, such as Zak claim they were merely obeying orders.
The Prague International Marathon was won on Sunday by Kenyan runner
Barnabas Koech; among the women Ethiopian runner Leila Amman came in
1st. Mr Koech came in at 2 hours, 12 minutes and 15 seconds, while Ms
Amman completed the race in just over 2 hours 30 minutes. The big news
for Czech sports fans, meanwhile, was that 3rd place in the men's race
was clinched by Robert Stefko, a naturalised Czech from Slovakia who
received his citizenship in March. Stefko finished the race in 2 hours
12 minutes 35 seconds, becoming the first Czech to make the winner's
podium in the marathon's ten year history. Mr Stefko also automatically
qualified for the upcoming Athens Olympic Games.
In all, a little under 4, 500 runners took part in this year's Prague International Marathon, though many of those who took part complained about this weekend's unusually chilly weather.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus commemorated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia's second president Edvard Benes, in a more than one hour long ceremony attended by hundreds on Sunday. The ceremony took place in Sezimovo Usti in south Bohemia, where Mr Benes once maintained a personal villa and was later buried. On Sunday President Klaus, criticised his predecessor's treatment by those he said "would like to rewrite history". Similarly, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said that Mr Benes had been demonised in connection with the expulsion of some two-and-a-half million ethnic Sudeten Germans after World War II. According to Mr Spidla, Mr Benes was a "democratic politician who had done all he could" within the circumstances of his day.
Canoeist Martin Doktor has secured a spot in the 200 metres canoeing sprint at the European Championship on Sunday, as well as the 500 metre event. The famous Czech canoeist has now also secured a bronze in the 1000 metre event, coming in just thousandths of a second behind Spaniard Cal. Germany's Dittmer came in first, edging both Cal and Doktor by more than two seconds.
Speaking to a spokeswoman from NATO's supreme European command on Friday public broadcaster Czech TV reported it likely that the Czechs' elite anti-chemical unit, based in Liberec, north Bohemia, will provide protection at this summer's Olympic Games. NATO spokeswoman Michaela Cvanova told Czech TV that Athens - hosting the Games - was counting on Czech support to help protect against potential terrorist threats. The broadcaster reported some 120 specialists from NATO's multi-national battalion - of which the core group is Czech - would serve in Greece during the Games. Czech chief of staff Pavel Stefka also confirmed on Friday that preparations were being made, although the Czech Republic has yet to receive an official request. According to Czech TV, NATO's NBC unit could be in Greece within three weeks; the expected cost of the mission will be 50 million crowns.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has announced plans to increase personnel at the Czech consulate in Moscow in order to meet a sudden increase in the number of Russians applying for Czech visas. The decision has come on the heels of complaints by several Russian travel agencies that contend they had to cancel several group vacations because visas had not been issued on time. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar has said that the problem resulted in part thanks to new European Union regulations affecting the Czech Republic as of May 1st.