President Vaclav Klaus has ordered the release from custody of Jiri Fiala, a candidate for the Party of Common Sense in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Fiala has been charged with attacking a public figure and questioning the independence of the court over a case involving his paternity rights. Fiala has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that he has been denied access to his children. President Klaus said all candidates in the elections should have an equal chance to address voters and asked the authorities to conduct the investigation without keeping Fiala in custody.
The Education Ministry has refused to withdraw a textbook for eighth graders which has been severely criticized by the Church. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk called for its withdrawal earlier this week saying that excerpts from Francois Cavanna's work The Holy Scripture ridiculed the Bible. The ministry said that it saw no reason to withdraw the textbook and pointed out that the Czech Bishops Conference had seen and approved it before its publication. The publishing house Fraus which issued the book said the excerpts are used to illustrate travesty as a literary style.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has rejected charges that top government officials have been hampering the work of the country's elite organized crime unit, saying that the accusations were part of an election smear campaign. Late on Monday Jan Kubice, head of the elite unit for fighting organized crime, told a parliamentary committee that Paroubek and other top officials had hindered his unit's work in order to shield Social Democrat colleagues and that criminals had infiltrated the civil service. Evidence supporting the charges was not made public. The PM called a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday to deny the allegations telling journalists that the opposition Civic Democrats had fabricated the charges to swing voters ahead of the poll.
Detectives from the national anti-drug squad have busted a gang that is suspected of organizing the sale of ecstasy at discos in the centre of Prague. Three Israeli nationals have been taken into custody and charged with illegal production and sale of drugs. The police confiscated thousands of ecstasy tables as well as cocaine, marihuana and LSD.
Miroslav Vana an MP for the ruling Social Democrats was assaulted by an unknown attacker outside his home in Pardubice on Monday night. Vana suffered a head injury and was bruised and shaken by the incident. He says he did not see the attacker, only heard footsteps behind him and felt a blow to the head before falling down unconscious. This is the second physical attack against an MP in recent weeks. The first was against communist party MP Jiri Dolejs who was beaten up by unknown attackers at the end of April. He sustained head and eye injuries and said he was convinced it was a politically motivated attack.
A group of students gathered in the Old Town at noon on Tuesday to protest against the sale of St. Michael's Church. The art history students and some of their professors marched from the cultural monument in the city's Old Town district to the ministry of culture and the government headquarters. St. Michael's Church came into private ownership last year but the sale has not been without controversy. Some experts in the cultural sector say the church should have been sold at a higher price; others say the sales contract is not binding and that the church is still the property of the state.
President Vaclav Klaus has said he is seriously concerned about the information submitted by the head of the elite organized crime unit and expects an immediate and unbiased investigation. The President's spokesman said that Mr. Klaus did not want to interfere in such a sensitive case so close to the elections but that immediately after them he would ask to be informed about progress on the case.
A group of Czech filmmakers have withdrawn their productions from a prestigious international film festival in Moravia in protest at what they call a lack of support for the Czech film industry by politicians. In their last session before the elections, Czech deputies failed to overturn a presidential veto of higher financial support for filmmakers last week. In protest, films such as Restart (director Julius Sevcik), Shark in the Head (director Maria Prochazkova), Still Living (director Pavel Gobl) and The City of the Sun (director Martin Sulik), have been taken out of the prestigious 46th Zlin International Film Festival for Children and the Youth. The festival was launched on Monday and will screen 410 films from 35 countries until Saturday.
Residents of Prague's Dolni Cernosice district have been cut off from the rest of the world after continuous rain flooded the only road that connects them to the city. Levels of the nearby Berounka River have begun to recede but meteorologists say more heavy rain is expected in the next few days. The situation in most parts of the country that were also flooded this weekend has also calmed. The heavy rain has resulted in dozens of millions of crowns in damages so far.
Some 2,000 Czechs are believed to die every year from illnesses resulting from passive smoking, the director of the Czech Coalition against Tobacco Katerina Langrova said on Monday ahead of World No Tobacco Day, which is marked every year on March 31 by anti-tobacco lobbyists around the globe. In a campaign this week, Czech tobacco control advocates hope to help and persuade non-smokers to fight against passive smoking. Smoke is tolerated at concerts or in restaurants simply because many non-smokers are unaware that they have the right and means to fight for clean air, Mrs Langrova says.
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