A twenty-four-year-old man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for murdering his two-month-old baby daughter. The man is believed to have taken his fit of rage out on the sleeping child after a furious row with her mother. The baby was rushed to hospital with serious internal injuries and died the same day.
Meanwhile, in what is perceived as a fresh blow to the ruling Civic Democratic Party the High Court in Olomouc has overturned a 2007 ruling which cleared two men close to the Civic Democratic Party leadership of alleged corruption. In 2004 Zdeněk Kořistka, a deputy for the Freedom Union said that Mr. Topolánek’s assistant Marek Dalík and lobbyist Jan Večerek had attempted to bribe him to bring down the ruling Social Democrat government. Mr. Kořistka lost his case for lack of evidence and was forced to apologize to the two men and pay a fine of 30,000 crowns. He appealed to the High Court in Olomouc which on Wednesday overturned the ruling, saying it had been presented with sufficient evidence of attempted blackmail.
A second Civic Democrat deputy has left the ruling party’s deputies group over its handling of a blackmail and entrapment scandal involving a close associate, Vlastimil Tlustý. Jan Schwippel announced his decision on Wednesday, just two days after Juraj Raninec left the deputies group. Both men are calling for a proper investigation of the corruption scandal that has tarred the image of the largest party in government. They have made it clear though that they would continue to vote with the government, which now has 98 seats in the 200-seat lower chamber.
The deputy governor of the Czech National Bank, Miroslav Singer, says the turmoil on world markets will lead to a marked slowing of the Czech economy and a drop in demand. In an interview for Wednesday’s edition of Hospodařské noviny, Mr Singer said some Czech brokerage firms could have problems in the wake of the financial crisis that began in the United States. He said, however, that Czech banks did not appear to be threatened. Shares on the Prague Stock Exchange have fallen to a near-three-year low, and at points trading was suspended due to sharp losses. In a two-day period over 100 billion crowns was wiped off the value of shares.
The chairman of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka said he could not rule out the fall of the government if rebels from the three governing parties joined forces to bring it down. The corruption scandal involving two of the governing parties has further alienated the rebels who were potential targets of the blackmail conspiracy. Mr. Sobotka told reporters he was convinced that the rebels were out to destroy the government. Other senior Civic Democrats have spoken about the possibility of early elections, saying they were not prepared to beg the rebels for support. The opposition Social Democrats have indicated that they would be willing to tolerate a caretaker government which would see the country through its EU presidency, that is up until mid 2009.
The Czech Republic's two-time Olympic canoeing champion Martin Doktor announced his retirement on Tuesday so he can become the national team coach. The 34-year-old who won the 500 metres and 1000m races at the 1996 Olympics has been handed the responsibility of coaching the team for the 2012 Olympics in London.
The Status of Forces Agreement laying down the conditions for US soldiers living and working at a planned radar base on Czech soil will be signed in London on Friday. Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanová and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates will sign the SOFA agreement together with a declaration of strategic cooperation. The agreement completes an initial deal Prague and Washington signed in July to base a powerful radar system in the Czech Republic to support a battery of 10 interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland. The treaties between Prague and Washington still need to be ratified by the Czech Parliament.
Mr Tlustý’s regional branch has resisted pressure from senior Civic Democrats to expel him, voicing support for him on Tuesday. Mr Tlustý played an active role in a tabloid TV sting which led to the resignation last week of another Civic Democrat MP, Jan Morava. Mr Morava was caught on camera buying staged compromising photographs of Mr Tlustý, and also gathered material with the intention of blackmailing a rebel Green Party MP.
A proposal by Regional Development Minister Jiří Čunek to place members of the country’s Roma community into three categories, with the lowest being forced to live in supervised centres, has been described by Romany groups as a ploy ahead of regional and Senate elections. Mr Čunek won a Senate seat – and the leadership of the Christian Democrats – two years ago, after forcing Romany rent defaulters out of the centre of a town where he was mayor. With more than a month to go until the elections, Čunek is already playing the Romany card, Zdeněk Ryšavý of the Romea civic association said on Tuesday. The proposal has little chance of being considered by Jiří Čunek’s cabinet colleagues.
Two MPs from the smallest party in the coalition government, the Greens, say they will remain in its deputies group if certain conditions are met. The MPs, Věra Jakubková and Olga Zubová, are at odds with the party’s leadership. They said on Tuesday they would stay in the Greens deputies group, if it allowed open discussion on subjects not covered by the coalition agreement and the government’s policy programme.
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