Memorial services were held on Saturday at the grave of Jan Palach at Prague’s Olšanské hřbitovy cemetery and in the town of Všetaty, where he lived. Palach set himself on fire at the top of Wenceslas Square on January 16, 1969, in protest at the Soviet invasion of 1968. He died three days later and his funeral became a major protest against the occupation.
A 32-year-old man shot himself dead during a police pursuit in the centre of Prague on Saturday morning, a police spokesperson said. The man fled when he was stopped by officers during routine checks at Masarykovo nádraží train station. He ran as far as the garages of the nearby Palladium shopping centre, where he threatened the police with a gun. After a police officer shot him in the leg the man turned the gun on himself, despite police efforts to talk him out of suicide, the spokesperson said. The incident is being investigated.
The human rights group Amnesty International held a protest against the Guantanamo Bay prison outside Prague’s American Embassy on Friday evening. Protesters dressed as prison guards brought colleagues in orange suits and handcuffs to the US Embassy in order to draw attention to the sixth anniversary of the first imprisonment at the US jail in Cuba, which has been used by Washington as part of what it calls its war on terror. The Amnesty activists called for detainees at Guantanamo to be either tried or released.
Roma rights activists have criticised statements by the chairman of the
Christian Democrats, Jiří Čunek, who said Romany family groups should be
broken up in order to weaken family ties which he said prevented them from
integrating. Speaking ahead of a party conference in Prague, he also said
that traditional Romany culture was not compatible with modern society.
Zdeněk Ryšavý of the group Romea said Mr Čunek had made the comments in
an effort to increase his fading popularity.
Jiří Čunek won a seat in the Senate after moving Romany rent defaulters out of the centre of the town of Vsetín, where he was mayor. The controversial politician is demanding to be reinstated as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development, after an investigation into allegations he accepted bribes at that time was dropped. A poll this week suggested Mr Čunek’s popularity was at a record low.
The first person in the Czech Republic to have a simultaneous heart and lung transplant has been released from hospital. Lea Mečířová, who is 49, underwent the successful operation in late November at Prague’s Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. She had been waiting for the operation since the year 2000. Around 80 such procedures are carried out around the world every year.
The Czech woman at the centre of a bizarre case of identity fraud has been interviewed by psychiatrists for the first time. Barbora Škrlová is in custody in Brno, after being detained in Norway, where she had attended school in the guise of a 13-year-old boy. The diminutive 33-year-old was wanted in the Czech Republic, where she had previously posed as a 13-year-old girl, in connection with an investigation into an apparent child abuse ring. Ms Škrlová’s lawyer said he would petition on Monday to have her released from custody, which he said was a very stressful environment. The strange case has attracted a great deal of attention in the Czech Republic and internationally.
Feature films and series shoots dominated at Prague’s well-known Barrandov Studio in 2007, the firm’s Anna Hanzalková told the Czech news agency ČTK on Friday. According to the representative, demand outnumbered capacity last year, with much of Barrandov being blocked for the second instalment of the blockbuster fantasy film Prince Caspian - part of the Narnia series. Larger TV commercial shoots also dominated. As a result, several dozen smaller commercials and projects reportedly had to be turned away. In recent years Barrandov has been even more high-profile projects, including 2006’s Casino Royale, with actor Daniel Craig in the role of famous British spy James Bond.
Police in the east Moravian town of Zlín have charged three youths – said to be skinheads aged 15 to 17 – for an alleged racially-motivated attack against a Sri Lankan exchange student. The attack against the student took place in Zlín last November. The youths are suspected of having brutally beaten the man by kicking him in the head and stomach. A study commissioned by the police revealed the attack could easily have left serious damage. As none of the three suspects are of age, if found guilty each faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Czech international Jan Koller has gotten off to a good start with his new club FC Nuremburg in the German Budesliga, where the player recently transferred from Monaco. In his debut the player scored in a preliminary match against Frankfurt, also home to a new Czech player Martin Fenin. The game ended as a 1:1 tie. Besides Koller, Nuremburg is home to other Czech players, keeper Jaromír Blažek and midfielder Tomáš Galásek.
A new poll conducted by the STEM agency, commissioned by the opposition Social Democrats, has suggested that around 52 percent of Czechs would vote for Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar for Czech president, if they could. The results were published in the left-leaning daily Právo on Friday. Incumbent president and rival Václav Klaus fared only slightly worse, with 48 percent support in the poll on the upcoming vote. The election will in not decided by the public but by Parliament. Mr Švejnar has been supported by the Social Democrats, the Greens, as well as a number of senators from smaller parties as well as a number of Communist and Christian Democrat lawmakers. Two-thirds of those surveyed by STEM made clear they consider Mr Švejnar a serious rival to the current president. The election will be held on February 8.
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