Police in the town of Pilsen have uncovered a group of seven individuals between the ages of 20 and 25 who allegedly tried to help Asian nationals illegally gain residency in the Czech Republic. The group is thought to have done so through marriages of convenience or other means. Assisting foreigners illegally obtain residency has been classified as a crime in the Czech Republic since June. One 25-year-old woman has been charged so far, allegedly having set up her marriage to an Asian national in Ukraine as a means for the man to gain residency in the Czech Republic. Czech security forces are also looking into the case. If found guilty the suspect could face up to one year in prison.
According to Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, two members of the elite Czech military rapid response unit are neo-Nazi sympathisers. The newspaper revealed the names of both, as well as the name of a member of the artillery allegedly known to police for neo-Nazi activism. Mlada Fronta Dnes has written that experts consider their place in the military a serious security risk; the daily also noted that troops with extremist leanings in Czech military units could be more widespread. Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova has reacted to the news by stressing that appropriate steps will be taken if neo-Nazi leanings among the soldiers are confirmed.
The prosecution has charged former hospital employee Petr Zelenka with murder and attempted murder in a case which shocked the Czech Republic last year. The former nurse is accused of having killed seven patients and having planned to murder an additional ten people through the administering of the blood-thinning drug heparin in the hospital ward in Havlickuv Brod, where he worked. During the investigation, the suspect admitted to a number of the killings but his lawyer has stated the confessions were given under the threat of physical force, something which the police have denied. Mr Zelenka’s trial is due to begin in three months; if found guilty, Mr Zelenka could face a life sentence.
Union leader Frantisek Dobsik has said he expects that schools in large Czech towns will take part in a strike in the education sector next Tuesday. The union official also said he expected more than half of all Czech schools to join the strike but added he would have precise number on Monday. On Friday the official warned there was no chance of the unions cancelling off the protest. The unions have called for an increase in the Education Ministry's planned 118.5 billion-crown budget for next year, pointing out that money will be lacking for teachers' wages, the purchase of school items and teachers' further specialisation. The unions have launched a petition that was signed by more than 64,000 people and they are negotiating on additional spending with the government and MPs. It seems likely that deputies will allot an additional one billion crowns for the Education Ministry but the unions have called for three times that amount.
The Brno municipal court has sentenced Jiri Adler - the former director of the tissue bank of the teaching hospital in Brno-Bohunice – to a suspended sentence of two years in prison for the illegal export of human skin to the Netherlands. The court also handed him a fine of 1.5 million Czech crowns (the equivalent of around 84,000 US dollars). Mr Adler’s former colleague, Dagmar Hruzova, was given a suspended sentence of one year in prison and fined 800,000 crowns. Three additional employees at the tissue bank were also fined for illegal dealing.
The board of governors of the NHL, North America’s national ice hockey league, is to decide over the next two days on the start of next year’s regular season, including whether or not the organisation will stage an exhibition game in the Czech capital. This year the NHL saw two such games in London between the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings. Czech business managers have reportedly been discussing the possibility of a Prague game with NHL representatives, reportedly lobbying for the New York Rangers to play in the Czech capital; New York is home to Czech star Jaromir Jagr.
A member of the lower house’s commission supervising military
intelligence has pointed to strong Russian interest in the possible site
for a US radar base in the Czech Republic. MP Jan Vidim made the statement
on Friday, noting that of all diplomats accredited in the Czech Republic
last year, more than half were Russian nationals. His statement echoes
numbers recently revealed by Czech counter-intelligence, suggesting that a
high number of Russian officials were in reality intelligence operatives.
The service’s annual report also pointed to the suspicion that Russian
intelligence has been funding Czech organisations opposed to the radar.
grass-roots group has denied the claim.
US and Czech officials are currently negotiating on a US radar base being deployed to the Czech Republic as part of a broader defense shield in Central Europe.
The justice ministry has been working on a proposal which could change the country’s electoral law to prevent future post-election stalemate. The news was reported by financial daily Hospodarske Noviny on Friday. According to the newspaper, the proposal could include a so-called “winner’s bonus” which could tip seats in a close election in the winning party’s favour; that would lessen the danger of deadlock in the Chamber of Deputies. The last national election in June 2006 - although won by the Civic Democrats - ended in stalemate in an equally-divided lower house. The balance complicated negotiations on the new government for eight months. The justice ministry has been working on its proposal at the request of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Civic Democrats.
The Czech Republic came 15th in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment, a survey organised by the OECD every three years. This year’s survey focused on students’ knowledge of sciences and their ability to use this knowledge in solving problems of everyday life. The programme was carried out among 400,000 students in 57 countries. The average knowledge of OECD students was equalled to 500 points, with Czechs gaining 513 points and the top-of-the-list Finns gaining 563 points. The closest to the Czech Republic were the British and the Swiss.
The Czech National Bank has raised the interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point for the fourth time this year. The main rate was brought to 3.5 %, the highest level over the last five years. Following the news, the Czech crown strengthened its position against both the euro and the dollar to an all-time high of 26.28 crowns per euro and 17.79 per US dollar.