The mayor of Prague, Pavel Bem, said on Tuesday he is refusing to attend the Beijing Olympics despite the Czech capital being a candidate to host the summer 2016 games. Mr. Bem, who was refused entry at the China-Tibet frontier when climbing Mount Everest last year, said the question of oppression of human rights in Tibet could not be regarded as China's internal affair. He insists however that his decision is personal, adding that a boycott would harm a generation of athletes.
Seven Czech artists who pirated a television broadcast to superimpose images of a nuclear explosion on images of a tourist resort in the Krkonoše mountain region, were acquitted of scaremongering charges on Tuesday. The judge said that the images did not resemble a real nuclear explosion and could not have been taken seriously. The members of the Ztohoven group of artists who hacked into the live broadcast by public broadcaster Czech Television in June last year, pleaded not guilty. Before the trial, they expressed surprise that Czech Television had decided to press charges over their stunt. The group has previously made headlines by transforming a giant neon heart sign over Prague Castle into a question mark and by hijacking posters in the Prague metro to promote their own impromptu art shows.
Four senior officials of the Interior Ministry have been dismissed after it emerged that they had collaborated with the former communist secret police, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes wrote on Tuesday. The paper said that one of them had even sought a position in the recently established Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. Interior Minister Ivan Langer ordered a new round of screening after it emerged that some officials in top management posts who collaborated with the communist secret service may have slipped through the net.
Czech politicians have denounced an offer by the ultra-right National Party to place a controversial anti-Islamic film on its web site, calling it irresponsible and foolhardy. The film by the Dutch ultra-right MP Geert Wilders describes the Koran as a fascist book that teaches intolerance and provokes violence. Dutch TV channels have refused to broadcast it and the Dutch authorities fear that it could stir up violent protests in the Muslim world. Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer said the offer had been made by a group of ignorant fools and expressed the hope that they would not be taken seriously. Opposition politicians likewise distanced themselves from the National Party’s activities, noting that they were only doing their best to get noticed.
The Christian Democrats of the governing coalition have moved to postpone the country’s acknowledgement of Kosovo’s independence. Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek on Tuesday requested that the issue should be put on the agenda of the next coalition leaders’ meeting. Mr. Čunek, who is not a member of the cabinet, said that there was no one in the party leadership who was in favour of acknowledging Kosovo’s independence at the present time. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg had originally planned to ask the government to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence on April 2nd. Czech politicians are divided over the issue. While the prime minister is in favour of acknowledging Kosovo’s independence, President Klaus and the country’s opposition parties are against it.
Easter caroling in the town of Louny ended in violence on Monday when a man attacked a group of carolers who’d come to his front door. The man yelled that they were trespassing on private property, accused the boys of having stolen several bottles of beer from his porch and started beating them with a rod. When the father of the boys who was with them came out in their defense the aggressor shot him in the leg. The boys are in hospital with concussion. Police are investigating the incident.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is back at work after a month-long break for health reasons. At the end of February the foreign minister underwent heart surgery at a private clinic in neighbouring Austria and later spent some time at a spa regaining his strength. A foreign ministry spokesperson said Mr. Schwarzenberg was feeling well and would attend a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Slovenia at the close of the week. He is scheduled to visit the United States and Mexico in April, his health permitting.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has refuted claims that a date had been set for the signing of a Czech-US agreement on the installation of a US tracking radar on Czech soil. The daily Hospodářské Noviny wrote in its Tuesday edition that the agreement would most likely be signed on May 5th, at a time when Prague will be hosting a conference on missile defense at which US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was allegedly expected to make an appearance. Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar said in response to the article that no official date had been set for the signing of the Czech-US agreement and that while the US secretary of state had been invited to the mentioned conference she had not as yet confirmed attendance.
The police have issued an Interpol arrest warrant on a Dutch national who is believed to have kidnapped his six-year old daughter living in the Czech Republic. Rodney William Cowie, 38, allegedly picked up his daughter Charlie Tereza from her mothers’ house on Saturday morning for a day-out but failed to return her that evening as agreed. The two were last sighted at a petrol station and the police say they are having difficulties in tracing the father and daughter since they can now move freely within the EU.
Heavy snow and icy roads are complicating road traffic in the eastern parts of the Czech Republic. The situation is said to be worst in Central and Northern Moravia where up to twenty centimeters of fresh snow fell overnight and in the course of the morning. Road maintenance crews have been working around the clock to clear the roads but they advise extreme caution. Drivers have been warned not to set out without winter tires.
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