Two Czech hockey stars have reportedly signed on to play for the NHL's New York Rangers. Forward Martin Straka and defender Marek Malik, who during the NHL lockout have played in the Czech Elite League for the Plzen and Vitkovice teams respectively, are to join their national team mate Jaromir Jagr, who now plays in Russia. During the 2003-04 season, the last before the lockout, 71 Czechs were playing in the NHL.
A special investigatory team of police has begun looking into the police force's recent action to shut down CzechTek, an annual techno party that convened this year in western Bohemia. A police spokesperson said on Thursday that the team was asking both the media and the general public to submit any video recordings, photographs or other relevant documentation of the CzechTek event to the police, in order to aid the team in its work. The formation of the police investigatory team comes on the heels of a Wednesday meeting of the Senate's Defence and Security Committee at which members said the police had been too heavy handed in breaking up the techno party.
Several hundred people, mostly trade unionists, demonstrated in the Romanian city of Iasi on Thursday to demand the extradition of a Czech businessman who fled the country last week to avoid going to prison for incitement to murder. Frantisek Priplata was convicted in June of provoking the murder of a Romanian trade unionist who had been fighting to cancel a contract that Mr Priplata had secured for his employer to buy into a Romanian steelworks. He was to begin an eight-year prison sentence in Romania next month, but escaped to the Czech Republic on Friday. Mr Priplata claims he was not given a fair trial and the Czech foreign ministry has said he will not be extradited. Romania, however, is expected to issue an international warrant for Mr Priplata's arrest and to push for his return.
In related news, the Czech ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, said on Thursday that his office would launch its own independent investigation, focusing on steps taken by the authorities and police to disband the CzechTek event, in which dozens of techno fans and police were injured on Saturday. Police had used tear gas, stun grenades, batons and water cannons to disperse the crowds, whom the government say were trespassing on private property. This week, thousands of mostly young people held daily demonstrations outside the Interior Ministry and at other Prague locations in protest of the police action, and Mr Motejl said the ombudsman's office had received numerous complaints.
The Senate's Defence and Security Committee said on Wednesday that the police were too heavy-handed in the break-up of the CzechTek techno party this weekend; the Human Rights Committee intends to call on the Interior Ministry to launch an official investigation. The Czech justice ministry has also asked the Pilsen state attorney's office and an independent law firm to make an assessment on the police intervention. Eighty-nine police officers and a few dozen ravers are reported to have been wounded during Saturday's operation.
Meanwhile, the organisers of protest demonstrations say they fear another CzechTek participant is dead. They say the French national had to be taken to hospital with injuries suffered during the police intervention and has not been seen by his family and friends for the last two days. The hospital says it has no record of a Frenchman admitted over the weekend. A CzechTek participant died on Saturday after he was hit by a car, while crossing a nearby motor-way.
Ceska Obchodni Inspekce, the Czech commercial inspection office, says most clothing stores and a large number of restaurants are overcharging customers. During a two-month inspection earlier this year, it found that 71 percent of the close to 500 textile companies it inspected had broken regulations. In the first six months of the year, 43 percent of over 3,500 restaurants monitored overcharged customers. Following numerous complaints from tourists, the office is currently inspecting exchange bureaux in the country's most popular tourist destinations.
Protest demonstrations against the police operation continued at several cities around the country on Wednesday. CzechTek organisers have said they would not participate in talks proposed by the interior ministry. The meeting between them was to be mediated by former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who has publicly condemned the police operation. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek visited the site in west Bohemia at which CzechTek was held.
The senior ruling coalition partners, the Social Democrats, have accused the opposition centre-right Civic Democrats of using the CzechTek affair to gain popularity by publicly condemning the police operation, which has been backed by the prime and interior ministers. The Civic Democrats have called an emergency meeting of leaders of the four non-Communist parliamentary parties to evaluate Saturday's operation. The Social Democrats said on Wednesday that they would not attend.
The foreign ministry has released some grim statistics on the number of Czech holidaymakers to have died abroad this year: a record sixty-six Czechs in total. Most died in traffic accidents. There were 13 deaths in neighbouring Slovakia, and 11 in Croatia, where some 800,000 Czechs will spend their summer holiday this year. The first Czech victim of terrorism died last month in an explosion in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el Sheikh.
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