The head of the Hyundai Motor company, Chung Mong-Koo was in the Czech Republic on Wednesday to launch the construction of the South Korean car giant's first European production plant in Nosovice, Moravia. The company is investing more than a billion dollars in the factory, the biggest ever single investment in this country. The plant is due to open in 2009 and should produce 300,000 cars a year when it achieves its full production capacity in 2011. Around 3000 people are expected to be employed at the plant.
A court in Dublin decided on Wednesday that two suspected members of the so-called "Berdych Gang" can be extradited to the Czech Republic. Tomas Puta and Maros Sulej are alleged members of a gang - named after their leader David Berdych - accused by the Czech authorities of a number of crimes, including murder, kidnapping and robbery. The two men fled the Czech Republic separately in 2002 and 2003, but were arrested together in Ireland in August of last year. They have fifteen days to appeal the Irish court's decision.
In related news, Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek, who claimed from the start that Kubice report had been fabricated in last year's general elections has called for the resignation of Interior Minister Ivan Langer, who is believed by many to have been responsible for leaking news of the confidential report to the press. The Social Democrats have also called for a public apology from Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek over the matter. The prime minister says he'll study the findings of the Supreme State Attorney's office before making any further comment. Like many of his party colleagues he remains sceptical with regard to the outcome of the investigation - and says that many things remain unexplained, in particular the high number of wiretappings that were ordered when the Social Democrats were in office.
The Czech air force has said that its Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets will resume training flights on Thursday. The aircraft had been grounded at the weekend pending an investigation by Swedish aviation experts following an accident involving one of their air force's planes last week. A Swedish air force pilot was catapulted from his plane last Thursday, when his ejector seat was activated for no apparent reason. Investigators have since concluded that the accident had been cause by a defect in the pilot's flight suit.
Prague City Court ruled on Wednesday morning that a suspected Swedish terrorist arrested in Prague airport a year and a half ago can be extradited to the United States to face trial. Oussama Kassir - a Swede of Lebanese origin - has been in Czech custody ever since he was apprehended on the basis of an international arrest warrant by police during a flight stopover at Ruzyne Airport in December 2005. He is wanted by the United States for conspiring to build a Jihad training camp at a farm in Oregon and could face life imprisonment if found guilty. Kassir denies the charges and his Czech lawyer's say they will appeal against Prague City Court's decision to extradite him to the US.
A special team at the Supreme State Attorney's Office has cast doubt on the so called Kubice report which claimed that organized crime had infiltrated the Czech civil service. The head of the Office for Investigation of Organized Crime Jan Kubice told a parliamentary committee last June that the outgoing Social Democrat prime minister Jiri Paroubek and other top officials had hindered his unit's work in order to shield party colleagues and that criminals had infiltrated the civil service. A special team set up at the Supreme State Attorney's Office to investigate the claims has concluded that these claims were unfrounded. Its spokeswoman Irena Valova said on Tuesday that in none of the cases mentioned was the supervising state attorney contacted by anyone with the intention of influencing the criminal proceedings, nor had there been any attempt to influence the work of the police.
Radio Free Europe has called for the immediate release of its Prague-based reporter Parnaz Azima, who is being prevented by the Iranian authorities' from leaving Tehrán. In a statement released on the station's website, Radio Free Europe's president Jeffrey Gedmin said Ms Azima was being held in Iran against her will after returning home to visit her sick mother. The US-funded Radio Free Europe now also known as Radio Liberty moved to Prague from Munich in 1995 and broadcasts to countries where America is interested in promoting democratic values, including Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Vondra represented the Czech Republic at the former Russian president Boris Yeltsin's funeral in Moscow on Wednesday. Mr Vondra arrived late for the event after technical problems with his government jet. Earlier, Czech president Vaclav Klaus sent a letter of condolence to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in which he said that Boris Yeltsin would remain one of the symbols of the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union. Mr Klaus is expected in Moscow later this week for an official visit which is reported to be going ahead as planned.
There is growing public opposition to the deployment of a US radar base
on Czech territory. According to the latest survey conducted by the
CVVM agency 68 percent of Czechs say they are opposed to the idea,
which is 7 percent more than in February of this year. Seventy-seven
percent of respondents said they would welcome a referendum on the
The United States has intensified its efforts to convince the Czech Republic and Poland to agree to the stationing of a US missile defence system in the two countries. On a one day working visit to Prague on Monday the head of the US missile defence agency, General Henry Obering, underlined the crucial role of the Czech Republic and Poland in Washington's defence plans against a possible missile attack by Iran. And it has been announced that US President George Bush is to visit the Czech Republic in June to discuss the matter with top officials. The Czech Republic has officially opened talks on the issue but has made no commitment as yet. Talks are expected to last until the end of the year. The government's decision would then have to be approved by both houses of Parliament.
Sixty-four percent of Czechs, including half of all smokers, would welcome separate non-smoking rooms in restaurants, according to a poll published in Lidove Noviny. Only twenty percent of respondents said it was unnecessary. The lower house of Parliament is to begin discussing a proposed amendment to the smoking law this week, which would further restrict smoking in public areas. The proposal envisages a smoking ban at children's playgrounds and stipulates that restaurants would have to have separate rooms for smokers. At present the owner can simply put up a smokers notice in one part of the restaurant without screening it off in any way. The Czech Republic remains one of the most liberal countries for smokers in Europe and observers say that efforts to push through a stricter legislation are likely to meet with strong opposition in Parliament.
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