The Czech Press Agency reports that the main political parties are primarily united in their support for direct election of the Czech president by the voters. The president is currently elected by a joint session of the Parliament from party nominees. The Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats have each put forward constitutional amendments for direct presidential elections; the former has received a second reading but will not be passed before parliamentary elections at the end of May. Direct presidential elections are also supported in the platforms of the Communist and Green parties, TOP 09 and Public Affairs; most disagreement involves the number of rounds such an election should allow for in the event of a tie.
Many more medicines will be available without prescription fees once revisions to insurance compensation take effect on May 1. The director of the State Institute for Drug Control, Martin Beneš, told reporters on Monday that the revisions, combined with similar changes made at the beginning of April, would save insurance companies roughly three billion crowns. He said they would also provide modern medicines for more patients and more medicines that patients will not have to pay for. Each year 70-80 billion crowns worth of medicines are purchased in the Czech Republic, roughly half of which is covered by insurance companies. The State Drug Control Institute was originally to effect the current revision in 2008; the Czech Doctors Chamber has sharply criticised the delay, saying it has caused damages of ten billion crowns.
Czech Radio reported on Monday that Senator Jiří Dienstbier was listed among the collaborators of the military intelligence service during the Communist regime. Mr Dienstbier, who was the first post-communist minister of foreign affairs and was a reporter for Radio Prague in the 1960s, has denied any deliberate cooperation with the former secret service and said the allegations were nonsensical. According to Czech Radio, the documents in question were shredded, and what remains indicates that the senator may have been used as a “cover address” for covert communication among secret agents. The material available does not however constitute evidence that Mr Dienstbier knowingly facilitated such communication.
The Supreme Administrative Court on Monday upheld a fine imposed by the antimonopoly office on the bus company ČSAD. According to a previous decision of the Office for the Protection of Economic Competition, the state-owned carrier misused its dominant position on the market when it refused to allow its rival Student Agency access to the bus terminal in Liberec for its Prague-Liberec routes. ČSAD was hitherto the sole bus carrier on the line. The office originally fined ČSAD 2.5 million crowns, and later reduced the penalty to 2 million.
The Czech postal service will be implementing a wide-ranging update of its stamps on Wednesday. In addition to the monetary value, stamps will also be marked with letters denoting their different categories. The letter A will be printed on stamps to be used for deliveries within the Czech Republic, the letter E for those to be used within Europe and stamps designated for international deliveries will bear the letter Z. The postal service is also planning further changes: stamps will soon be self-adhesive, and the rule under which no living personalities other than the president can be featured on stamps will be abolished.
The Supreme Court of Olomouc on Monday prolonged the sentence of a Czech woman convicted of human trafficking and pimping. 20-year-old Diana Klevetová was originally sentenced to 3.5 years, however a district court handed down a below-minimum sentence, because she had only just turned 18 when she began organising prostitution. The higher court however found that the conditions had not been met for such an exception, and she was resentenced on Monday to more than five years imprisonment. Klevetová a others were convicted of securing work for prostitutes in night clubs and retaining commissions, and for tricking at least one woman into prostitution and forced payment.
A candidate standing for parliamentary elections for the Social Democratic Party in Liberec has withdrawn his name from the ballot after it was discovered that he was a member of the communist police force that attacked student demonstrators on November 17, 1989. The regional head of the Social Democrats told the news website iDnes that Radek Polma had withdrawn his candidacy on Friday to avoid influencing the election. Archives show Mr Polma as having been a constable in the cordon which rammed and then attempted to disperse the protestors. Mr Polma, who was then 19 years old, says that he had been stationed away from the clashes, in which numerous students were beaten and injured. The Social Democratic Party confirmed last month that he would be removed from the ballot if their candidate was found to have violently opposed the demonstration.
A 33-year-old paraglider pilot was seriously injured on Monday after a fall of several dozen metres. The man apparently fell on a steep slope near the eastern town of Frýdek-Místek and was conscious in spite of injuries to his spine and legs. A rescue helicopter arrived immediately but was unable to land in the immediate vicinity due to the terrain. The helicopter therefore handed several hundred metres away and firemen were called in to complete the rescue. The injured man is currently undergoing treatment in hospital in Ostrava.
The District Court of Plzeň has handed down a maximum sentence of 25 years to a young man who brutally murdered his father in September of last year. The judge for the District Court of Plzeň said that 21-year-old Patrik Kónya had shown no remorse for an act of first-degree murder, noting that the victim’s death had been slow and painful and that the suspect had been laughing during his trial. Mr Kónya beat his father with a hammer and went for an axe when he found he was still alive. He then took valuable items from the scene of the crime and went to visit friends. Experts characterised Mr Kónya as a sociopath of below average intelligence who has no chance of re-socialisation. He himself confessed to the crime, saying that his intent had not been theft but hatred of his father, who he said had mistreated him during childhood. He plans to appeal the sentence.
The City of Prague has filed an appeal with the Ministry of Culture against the 3.25 million crown fine it has received for improper repair of one of the country’s main monuments, Charles Bridge. Prague City Hall has called the review process, overseen by the Region of Plzeň, “amateurish”, and says it will take its appeal to court should it fail in the ministry. The Ministry of Culture itself has previously criticised the city for shoddy masonry work on the 15th century bridge, among other things. Charles Bridge is the second oldest stone bridge in the Czech Republic. It has been undergoing restoration for the last two years.
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