The Senate has approved sending a Czech Army anti-terrorism unit to Afghanistan to join US forces there for six months. The government approved the Defence Ministry's proposal last month and it has yet to be passed by the lower house. The opposition Communists say they will vote against it. A similar contingent was sent to Afghanistan two years ago. Now the 120-strong unit should leave for Afghanistan in April.
Doctors, pharmacists and representatives of small hospitals have announced they will hold a joint demonstration on February 24th in Prague in protest against the policies of Health Minister David Rath. Another protest took place on Monday, when most pharmacies in the Czech Republic closed their doors to the public for three hours.
The lower house has passed a bill under which foreigners would be able to apply for permanent residence after five years spent in the Czech Republic. Currently the waiting period for application is ten years. The new law on foreigners would also allow people from European Union countries to use any form of identification proving they are EU citizens while in the Czech Republic.
President Vaclav Klaus has dismissed the chairwoman of the Supreme Court, Iva Brozova, a Presidential Office spokesman said on Thursday. Ms Brozova's dismissal was discussed by the government on Wednesday and co-signed by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. President Klaus dismissed Ms Brozova at the request of Justice Minister Pavel Nemec who had repeatedly complained about the current state of the Supreme Court. According to speculation, Ms Brozova might be replaced by ex-justice minister and 2003 presidential candidate Jaroslav Bures.
Four people died in a fire in an 11th floor flat in a high-rise building in the south of Prague on Wednesday night. Fire fighters said three people burnt to death in the building and a fourth person who suffered severe burns of the head and hands died after he jumped down from the 11th floor. Another eight people were taken to hospital for treatment after inhaling smoke. Police say the cause of the fire is not yet known.
Extradition proceedings against fugitive Czech businessman Viktor Kozeny have begun in the Bahamas. The United States has filed for his extradition on charges of large scale fraud and money laundering in connection to a privatisation deal in Azerbaijan. Mr Kozeny, dubbed the Pirate of Prague, is also wanted in the Czech Republic on fraud charges. Now an Irish citizen, he has been living in the Bahamas for ten years.
International football goalkeeper Petr Cech is set to become the best paid Czech sports person of all time, after signing a contract extension that will keep him at English club Chelsea until 2010. Agency reports suggest Cech, who is 23, could make over 10 million dollars a year. He has set a number of Premier League goalkeeping records since moving to Chelsea in the summer of 2004, and was recently voted best goalkeeper in the world.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has described as incomplete and unsatisfactory Cuba's explanation of why two Czech women were arrested on the island. The ministry issued the statement after a meeting on Wednesday between Cuba's charge d'affaires in Prague and Czech officials. Former miss Czech Republic Helena Houdova and psychologist Mariana Kroftova were held for 11 hours last week after being arrested while taking photographs in a poor district of Havana.
The prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, has come under fire for appearing in a pre-election stage show in which the host told apparently racist jokes. Daily Mlada fronta Dnes said on Wednesday that the host of the "Premiere with the Premier" show, Jiri Krampol, had told jokes suggesting Romanies avoided work and committed petty crimes. Mr Paroubek has rejected the newspaper's allegations, saying he is no way racist. For his part Mr Krampol, an actor, says if jokes can be made about blondes or doctors, they can equally be made about Romanies.
The biggest trial involving an alleged criminal gang ever held in the Czech Republic got underway on Wednesday. Fifty-one members of the alleged gang, led by David Berdych, are due to appear before the Central Bohemian Regional Court on charges of murder, robbery, kidnapping and extortion relating to crimes committed between 1996 and 2002. Prosecutors say there are links between gang members and elite anti-organised crime detectives. The Berdych gang are said to have used police uniforms and arms as well as false documents.
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