Parliament on Wednesday approved a bill which will substantially increase the salaries of police officers, customs officers and fire fighters. As of January 2005 people in these professions will receive an average 32,000 crowns (around 1,000 euros) per month. The bill was strongly opposed by the Christian Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats who argued that it would raise mandatory expenditures to an unacceptable level. The head of Parliament's budget committee, Miroslav Kalousek, failed in his attempt to get the pay increase postponed by two years.
Police President Jiri Kolar has dismissed the statement by regional state attorney Zlatuse Andelova who said on Tuesday that the arrest of two men suspected of trying to bribe MP Zdenek Koristka was unlawful. Two close associates of opposition Civic Democrat leader Mirek Topolanek were dramatically arrested two weeks ago on charges of a corruption attempt but were later released. The regional state attorney Zlatuse Andelova also cast doubt on the lie-detector test that MP Koristka passed, saying that some of the results were not clear. Following Ms Andelova's statement, the Civic Democratic Party called on Police President Jiri Kolar and Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan to resign.
Four people died in a car accident near the town of Plzen on Tuesday morning, after a collision involving two cars and a van. A further three were taken to hospital with injuries. The accident was the latest in a series of road fatalities in recent days, and the last week has been the worst in terms of road deaths since July 2003.
President Klaus has granted pardon to a man who shot dead a thief in his backyard. The thief was allegedly armed and had tried to run the owner over with his car. According to the president's spokesman Mr. Klaus felt that the trial and sentencing were sufficient punishment for a man who had acted in self defence. This is the second time that the president has pardoned someone sentenced for manslaughter. In the first case he pardoned a twenty two year old boy who killed his father in a fight after suffering years of beatings and brutality from him. In both cases the local community appealed to the President to grant a pardon.
The state attorney's office in Ostrava has recommended that the charges of bribery against Marek Dalik and Jan Vecerek be withdrawn. State attorney Zlatuse Andelova said on Tuesday that the two men had been detained and charged on insufficient grounds. She likewise challenged the results of the lie detector test which parliament deputy Zdenek Koristka undertook to prove that he was telling the truth when he said that Dalik and Vecerek had offered him ten million crowns in return for a no-confidence vote in the present government. Koristka said he found the state attorney's statements scandalous.
A commission of experts set up to investigate the death of the late national hockey coach Ivan Hlinka says doctors did not err in the case. We have concluded that Mr. Hlinka's death was unavoidable in view of his extensive internal injuries and that the doctors who treated him are in no way responsible for it, the commission's chairman told journalists on Tuesday. Hockey legend Ivan Hlinka died within hours of being admitted to a Karlovy Vary hospital following a serious car crash on the Karlovy Vary-Prague highway. The commission was set up at the request of his family.
The Spolchemie chemical plant in the northern Czech town of Usti nad Labem has confirmed that was a leak of hydrogen chloride on Monday morning. Local residents noticed a strong smell at the time of the leak, but the plant's management says that no special safety measures were needed. They said that the leak occurred while pipes were undergoing routine repairs and was brought under control almost immediately. There have been several chemical leaks from the plant in recent years, and there has been growing pressure in the town for the more dangerous parts of the plant's production to be moved to a site more distant from residential areas.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia have signed an agreement on mutual assistance in the event of terrorist attacks or other emergency situations. The document was signed in Prague by the visiting Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and his Czech counterpart Cyril Svoboda. The two ministers also discussed a border agreement which should toughen the regime on their joint border. According to the agreement, which has not yet been ratified by the countries' parliaments, free movement would be limited to 22 official border crossings and an additional 72 selected points. At present Czech and Slovak citizens are free to cross the border practically anywhere and many people in the border regions object to the new arrangement.
The Afghan armed forces are to receive six thousand tonnes of ammunition that is no longer used by the Czech Army. The proposal to save costs on storage by shipping redundant ammunition to Afghanistan was approved by the government on Monday after several weeks of discussion. Since the United States have agreed to cover transport costs, the Czech Republic will be disposing of the ammunition at no cost. It would have cost the state 50 million Czech crowns to put it in storage, and 350 million crowns (over 11 million US dollars) to dispose of it. The one million pieces of ammunition will include bullets and cartridges, hand grenades, and various types of shells.
Bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and New Zealand should
primarily focus on education and business, according to New Zealand's
Governor General Silvia Cartwright. Mrs Cartwright is currently on an
official visit to the Czech Republic. At Prague Castle on Monday, she
and Czech President Vaclav Klaus signed an agreement on work stays,
under which Czechs between the ages of 18 and 30 would be granted
short-term work permits in New Zealand.
Mrs Cartwright, who is accompanied by her husband Peter, also had lunch with Senate Chairman Petr Pithart and visited Prague's most prominent landmarks.
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