Police officers and intelligence service employees are planning to demonstrate outside the Office of the Government on October 1 in support of higher wages. The decision to stage a protest was made by the police trade union organization in reaction to the government’s draft budget for 2009, which was approved by the cabinet on Monday. The proposed budget dashes expectations of higher wages for all officers and one of the chief demands is that officers in the regions whose wages were not raised this year should get an adequate pay rise in 2009. Police trade unions are demanding that the government should prepare a new wage system next year that would correct the discrepancy in wages.
The Czech Republic has placed 45th on a corruption perceptions index compiled by Transparency International, with corruption in politics perceived as the country’s most serious problem. David Ondračka of the Czech branch of Transparency International said the Czech government had adopted a very ambitious anti-corruption strategy but had gradually backpedaled on a number of the planned measures. Among the persisting problems are political corruption, uncontrolled lobbying, a lack of transparency in the handling of property belonging to towns and regions and insufficient protection of whistle blowers. The perceived corruption rate remains unchanged since last year, when it was at its lowest in the past decade.
President Václav Klaus has refused to pardon an 86-year-old former prosecutor who helped send democratic politician Milada Horáková to the gallows in 1950. Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, the last living participant in one of the most notorious show trials of communist Czechoslovakia, was found guilty as an accomplice to murder and sent to six years in prison on September 9 of this year. The request to pardon the former prosecutor in view of her advanced age was submitted by Supreme State Attorney Renata Vesecká. President Klaus said on Tuesday that although it was controversial to send a person of that age to prison for six years a pardon from him would negate an important decision of the Czech judiciary relating to a tragic period of Czech history.
Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursík and Japan’s ambassador to the Czech Republic Hideaki Kumazawa on Tuesday signed a memorandum enabling the sale of carbon credit units to Japan. The document will allow the Czech Republic to sell carbon credit units gained since 1990 by cutting greenhouse gas emissions to a lower level than the country is bound to by the Kyoto Protocol. The ministry expects the sale to generate 10 to 25 billion crowns. Proceeds from the sale will go the State Environmental Fund.
On Tuesday the opposition Social Democrats called on Interior Minister Ivan Langer to resign over the affair. Like Vlastimil Tlustý, the interior minister has denied that he knowingly cooperated with the mafia. He said the phone conversations were perfectly innocent and had taken place long before the controversial businessman František Mrázek was perceived as the unofficial head of the Czech mafia. The opposition is calling for a special parliamentary commission to investigate the affair.
The body of the Czech ambassador to Pakistan Ivo Ždárek, who was killed in Saturday’s suicide bomb attack on Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel, was transported back to the Czech Republic late on Monday. The country’s leading officials, including the president and prime minister, attended a brief ceremony at Prague’s Ruzyně Airport to pay homage to the 47-year-old father of two who is reported to have died helping wounded victims escape from the hotel. Ivo Ždárek took up the ambassador’s post in Islamabad just last month and had been living in the hotel while his residence was being reconstructed to provide greater security.
The Czech Republic has presented a report on the state of human rights in North Korea to the UN General Assembly, calling for action to curb extensive human rights abuse. The document, drafted by the global legal services organization DLA Piper and several human rights groups, documents extensive abuse in the country. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the General Assembly in New York that it was time to progress from words to actions, urging the UN to use all the peaceful means at its disposal to put pressure on Pyongyang. He said a 2006 report on human rights violations in North Korea had attracted attention to the problem but no action had been taken.
Vlastimil Tlustý, a rebel deputy of the Civic Democratic Party is suing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and certain media for slander over allegations that he had knowingly cooperated with the mafia. Mr. Tlustý told reporters on Tuesday that this was an attempt to destroy him politically and said he was bringing lawsuits against commercial TV Nova, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes and the prime minister who had all contributed to spreading what he said were blatant lies against him. At the weekend the daily Mladá fronta Dnes published recordings of alleged phone conversations between the late mafia boss František Mrázek and two Civic Democrat politicians – Vlastimil Tlustý and Interior Minister Ivan Langer.
The Czech ambassador killed in a terrorist attack in Islamabad on Saturday died helping the wounded escape the fire that followed the blast, the newspaper Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday. Ambassador Ivo Žd’árek could have fled the Marriott Hotel where the bomb exploded just after the attack, but rushed back in to help pull people to safety, the daily said citing an eyewitness. Jaroslav Kalfiřt, the Czech Embassy’s second in command, said the ambassador answered his phone five minutes after the blast and said he was safe. Five minutes later, however, Mr Žd’árek called back asking to be rescued. At least 53 people died and more than 260 were injured after a suicide attacker drove a truck filled with explosives into the hotel’s security gates on Saturday evening.
The Czech Green Party launched its regional election campaign on Monday, saying that environmental issues were at the top of its agenda. Party Chairman Martin Bursik said that one of the Greens’ biggest priorities was to limit air pollution through improving public transport. The environment minister also outlined recycling as a priority. Mr Bursik said that the Greens would be focusing mostly on the regional elections, and not the Senate elections taking place at the same time, because of the party was, he said, especially poorly represented on a local level. Mr Bursik did, however, present the Green Party’s 19 candidates for the Senate on Monday, amongst them former head of the Czech Academy of Sciences Helena Illnerova.
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