Czech speed skater Martina Sablikova set a new world record in the 10,000 metres speed skating event in Calgary, Canada on Thursday to become the first woman skater to finish under the fourteen minute mark. The speed skater, who is just 19, finished with a time of 13:48.33, improving on a record she set last year. Sablikova has enjoyed repeated success in 2007: last weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah she set a new women's world record in the five kilometre race.
Social Democrat deputy Bohuslav Sobotka has denied reports in the media that his party is weighing whether or not to lodge a criminal complaint against former party chairman Milos Zeman for signing an apparently disadvantageous contract ten years ago. The party has been dealing with demands by lawyer Zdenek Altner, who says he is owed almost 20 billion crowns in overdue payments by the party, for helping it in a past legal case. Mr Sobotka has stated on the internet that reports until now had been "pure speculation". He has indicated that the Social Democratic Party was looking into ways of dealing with the Altner case.
In related news, the east Moravian town of Vsetin, where Jiri Cunek was
mayor, has denied a story by Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny suggesting
inappropriate dealings over 4.5 million crowns (around 250,000 US
dollars). The sum was received as a down payment, the daily writes, in
the town's sale of its majority stake in its professional ice hockey
club. A first payment of 4.5 million crowns was paid out after the sale
was agreed with a Russian company, but according to Lidove Noviny the
funds later disappeared. Town Hall representatives have dismissed the
story as false, saying they did not receive the money at all and will
consider suing Lidove Noviny for libel.
Vsetin hockey club chairman Oldrich Stefl has told the media that the 4.5 million, roughly a fifth of the agreed price, were received by the club but invested. The deal then fell through and procedures were begun on the cancellation of the contract. According to Mr Stefl, negotiations with the Russian buyer on the return of the funds will now depend on the final cancellation of the sale.
The high court in the Moravian city of Brno has sentenced Frantisek Krucina from the Karvina region to ten years in prison for inflicting grievous bodily harm resulting in the death of his female partner, a case of domestic violence regarded as one of the most brutal in the Czech Republic in years. The court did not give any weight to the defendant's claims that his girlfriend had somehow injured herself. Evidence uncovered in the case found that Mr Krucina had beaten the victim repeatedly with a blunt object resulting in internal bleeding that led to her death.
Social Democrat deputy chairman Zdenek Skromach has indicated that he has no intention of challenging current party head Jiri Paroubek for leadership of the Social Democrats, holding a three-day party conference to choose or reconfirm party leadership next week. At the same time, Mr Skromach has stated that he hopes to be re-elected as a deputy chairman. In the past the former minister for labour and social affairs was seen as a contender for top post of the Social Democrats. Two years ago he ran but lost to former prime minister Stanislav Gross. Mr Skromach's decision now means that current leader Jiri Paroubek will not face any challengers: the party votes next Friday.
The wider Christian Democrat leadership - 53 out of 56 members on Friday - expressed support for embattled party leader Jiri Cunek, facing corruption charges. Mr Cunek himself abstained from taking part in the vote. Mr Cunek, who is also a deputy prime minister, has been accused of accepting a bribe of 500,000 crowns. He has so far refused to step down. Earlier this week Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that mounting public pressure was likely to eventually force Mr Cunek to leave the cabinet.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said the Czech Republic should sign up to the International Criminal Court and end what he has called the "barely sustainable position" of being the only EU state not to have done so. Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Mr Topolanek said the Czech Republic should sign up to the treaty by the time it takes over the EU's presidency in 2009. MPs from Mr Topolanek's own Civic Democratic Party voted down a proposal to sign up to the statute creating the Hague-based court in 2001 because of fears that it would leave Czechs open to international prosecution. The Czech foreign ministry has admitted to the country's current position being an embarrassment.
The West Bohemian town of Pilsen has indicated it will not be able to meet a request by the interior ministry to find homes for three families of Cuban refugees seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. The town made its decision on the grounds that it had only one available property in its housing fund, meaning that not all of the families could be covered. A condition in the request - put forward by Interior Minister Ivan Langer after meeting with representatives of the US Embassy in Prague - was that the three families would be housed in close proximity. Last year two apartments in Pilsen were made available for nationals from Kazakhstan; Pilsen has provided asylum seekers with nineteen apartments since 1995.
The Belgium-based supermarket chain Delhaize said on Thursday that net profit fell by 3.6 percent in 2006 due to its struggling Czech business, which the company has put up for sale. Delhaize, which has big US operations, reported a 2006 net profit on 351.9 million euros (464.7 million dollars), down from 365.2 million euros one year earlier. The company announced last November it was pulling out of the Czech Republic and putting up its 97 Delvita stores for sale, which would allow it to focus on higher opportunity markets.
Czech Police Chief Vladislav Husak is under investigation for having
allegedly warned a prime suspect in one of the country's biggest
corruption cases, the so-called "bio-fuel" case, ahead of an
investigation. The Mlada fronta Dnes newspaper reports that the secret
police have records of Mr Husak holding a long telephone conversation
with the adviser to the former Prime Minister Milos Zeman, Miroslav
Slouf. The conversation took place just after Mr Husak was informed by
the anti-corruption unit that an operation would be launched. Mr Slouf
then allegedly warned the prime suspect in the case. Mr Husak has not
commented on the reports.
In response to the latest allegations, former Social Democrat Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said on Thursday Mr Husak's contacts with Miroslav Slouf were not related to the bio-fuel corruption case. Several lobbyists and Social Democrat public officials were arrested last spring in connection with the "bio-fuel" case. They are believed to have offered or accepted bribes to influence the outcome of public tenders in the area of bio-fuel production.