The Prague Castle Administration on Tuesday officially handed over the management of St. Vitus' Cathedral, located in the castle grounds, to the Roman Catholic Church. The Prague City Court ruled in June of this year that St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle belongs to the Roman Catholic Church and not the state, upholding an earlier verdict by a Prague district court. The Church and the state have been fighting over ownership rights for over thirteen years. A 1954 government resolution gave Prague Castle the authority to manage the cathedral and surrounding property but the court decided that the transfer of management did not automatically imply a transfer of ownership. The state plans to appeal at the Supreme Court.
Detectives from the organized crime police squad say they have busted a gang of traffickers in women who operated across the Czech Republic. The gang allegedly made millions of crowns by forcing young Czech and Slovak girls into prostitution and selling them to accomplices abroad. The police have detained and brought charges against 16 people, eight of whom have been taken into custody. More than 160 police officers were involved in the operation.
Eva Klimovicova, a close aide to the former health minister David Rath, is to be charged with corruption. Klimovicova is accused of taking bribes from pharmaceutical companies for whom she set up meetings with Mr. Rath when he was president of the Czech Medical Chamber. An employee of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer claims she asked for three million crowns in return for arranging such a meeting. Ms. Klimovicova counters that it was the Pfizer representative who offered her three million crowns in an attempt to frame her. If found guilty, she could get a sentence of up to five years.
Former political prisoners say that one of the guards who beat them up in prison is now a deputy for the Communist Party. The official in question is reportedly MP Josef Vondruska who worked as a guard in the Minkovice prison in north Bohemia from 1972 to 1990. Former dissident Jiri Wolf who was imprisoned there for political reasons in the 70s told the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily that Vondruska had beaten him up daily when he was on hunger strike. Vondruska has dismissed the allegations as "nonsense" saying he had behaved in accordance with the law.
Four EU newcomers - the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia - said on Tuesday that they wanted to enter the block's borderless zone according to an agreed schedule next year, despite calls from Brussels to postpone the move. Czech Foreign Minister Alexander Vondra said that all four member states had agreed to work together to try and maintain the original date - October 2008 - or at least to negotiate in a way as to ensure that blame for any delay does not fall on the four countries. EU diplomats have called for a postponement because of delays in building a new police database. The four EU newcomers meet for regular sessions within the Visegrad Group alliance to debate regional issues and EU related matters.
Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil says he is preparing an overhaul of the legislative council and the Justice Ministry. Mr. Pospisil, who at 31 is the youngest member of the new minority Civic Democrat cabinet, said he wanted to infuse new blood into the sector and would replace part of the legislative council with young and dynamic experts in their thirties. He said personnel changes would also be made at the justice ministry but would not disclose any details.
An internet game simulating the destruction of Lidice, a village in central Bohemia, by the Nazis has provoked a great deal of controversy. The ad agency McCann Erickson which created it received approval from the head of the Lidice memorial Milous Cervencl on the grounds that it would incite interest in these historic events among the young. On the other hand the mayor of Lidice Vaclav Zelenka and the Freedom Fighters Union have described it as outrageous and perverse. The publicity surrounding the game -called Total Burnout of Lidice- has further increased its popularity among the young. McCann Erickson says the number of entries daily have gone from an average 200 to 3,500.
President Vaclav Klaus has appointed a new 15-member minority government
led by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. In the government nine are members
of the right-of-centre Civic Democratic party while six are unaffiliated.
The new cabinet will have thirty days now to ask for a vote of confidence
in the lower house, a vote many observers think the new cabinet is
unlikely to pass. If it fails, it must step down. Earlier, the new prime
minister made clear that he expects the cabinet to be provisional and to
lead the country to early elections next year. Other issues high on the
agenda will be preparing next year's state budget as well as focusing on
the Czech presidency of the European Union in 2009.
The Civic Democrats were members of the opposition since 1997. Following the June elections which they won, they tried but failed to form a coalition government including the Christian Democrats and the Greens - one mandate short of a majority.