- Tests in the Moravian-Silesian region find no evidence of contamination by Polish industrial salt.
- The German daily Die Welt accuses President Klaus of seeking to break up the European Union.
- Czech police have arrested an Iranian citizen wanted internationally for attempted arms trafficking.
- Liberec police have found a huge haul of apparently unlicensed tobacco.
- President Klaus declines a request to pardon the imprisoned artist Roman Týc.
Food inspectors give all clear to Moravian goods after Polish salt scare
The State Veterinary Administration has announced that samples from food known to contain Polish-sourced salt in the Moravian-Silesian region have thus far not shown any evidence of containing dangerous chemicals. The tests come in the wake of a major scandal in Poland, in which for years several companies were found to have been selling salt intended for industrial purposes to food producers. The Czech Republic has provisionally banned the import of salt from Poland with Czech Agriculture Minister Petr Bendl subsequently accusing Poland of providing insufficient information to Czech authorities seeking to assess whether Polish goods contaminated with industrial salt have made their way into the Czech food chain. The Moravian-Sliesian region tests took place in Olomouc with both food and pure salt samples tested. Both were found to be safe; tests on meat products are currently underway with the SVA continuing to press Polish authorities to provide more information over the precise nature of the industrial salt in question and which food companies may have purchased it.
Germany’s Die Welt accuses Klaus of seeking to break up EU
The Germany daily Die Welt has accused Czech president Václav Klaus of seeking to break up the European Union. The conservative daily cited Klaus’ support of Turkish EU entry in its argument; Germany is presently opposed to Turkish entry. Specifically, the paper noted recent comments by close Klaus aid Jiří Payne, who said: “I think that he wants to break up the European Union,” adding that “There are groups of European sceptics in each country. They are expanding into a stream in the current crisis. Klaus will travel round Europe and see to it that this stream is strengthening even more,” according to comments reported by ČTK. The paper argues that Klaus’ pro-Turkish stance has nothing to do with advocating for Turkey, but is rather another cynical move designed to weaken and possibly break-up the European Union by exacerbating the EU’s current problems via the addition of a new member with a population of roughly 60 million people. In a recent interview with the daily Právo, Payne also noted that the sooner the “failed integration project” of the EU is ended, the better it will be for the economies of its members.
Police arrest Iranian arms trafficking suspect
Police have arrested an Iranian citizen wanted internationally for attempted arms trafficking. Detectives from the organised crime division of the police took custody of Behrouz Dolatzadi in February on suspicion of attempting to purchase 500 M4 carbines in Prague for export to Iran, getting around the arms embargo. Czech Television reported Tuesday that the top secret operation to arrest Dolatzadi was carried out in concert with U.S. intelligence services, which issued the warrant. Dolatzadi arrived in the United States in 2011 as a representative of a Tehran clothing company and tried to buy the rifles there. He signed a contract for 3000 M4 rifles for Iran but the deal fell through. According to Czech Television, Dolatzadi then moved to the Czech Republic and signed a contract for M4 carbines worth 40,000 euros. Czech agents working undercover as arms manufacturers were in contact with him. He was arrested in Prague’s Clarion Hotel where he was staying.
Police find huge haul of unlicensed tobacco
Customs officials in the Czech city of Liberec have uncovered a huge haul of unlicensed tobacco following an anonymous tip-off. Around 16 tonnes of tobacco, with an estimated street value of 3.5 million crowns was found in a storage depot, reportedly owned by a twenty-five year-old Polish man lacking any documentation confirming that duties had been paid on the product in his possession. Upon arriving at the scene, police found 168 boxes containing either shredded or un-shredded rolling tobacco; some also contained only sawdust. Authorities are continuing to undertake scientific tests to determine exactly what they uncovered. Should authorities confirm that the man failed to pay duties, he will face a 22 million crown fine and could face up to eight years in prison, reports ČTK.
Prague 2 mayor resigns after accusations of abuse of power
The Civic Democrat mayor of the Prague 2 district Jiří Paluska resigned Wednesday following accusations that he had abused his power while in office. Specifically, the mayor faced accusations that he personally benefitted from a questionable rental arrangement and subsequent reconstruction tender by the district, with Paluska’s son living in an apartment that had officially been designated to be reconstructed, partially at public expense. Transparency International filed a complaint against Prague 2 arguing that the scenario presented by the district – of reconstruction and rental of a property on Dittrichova road – never actually took place and also claimed to possess documentation proving that the mayor’s son was occupying part of the property in question. Deputy mayor Václav Vondrášek has now taken over Paluska’s post.
Czech president denies pardon to imprisoned artist
Czech artist Roman Týc, currently serving the second week of a month-long jail term, has been denied a pardon by the Czech president. Týc was imprisoned after refusing to pay a 60,000 crown fine levied by the authorities as punishment for the artist’s defacing red and green traffic light figures in 2007 to show them in situations such as drinking, urinating and being hanged. Numerous civic initiatives have sprung up in recent months supporting Týc’s cause, while the artist pinned his hopes on a presidential pardon. According to the president’s office, Klaus carefully weighed the case, but ultimately decided not to intervene. Meanwhile, Týc’s lawyer contacted the Czech Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil last week, asking him to send the case to country’s Supreme Court, arguing that the entire prosecution of Týc for vandalism was unwarranted.
Taxi drivers stage protest outside City Hall
Dozens of taxi drivers staged a protest outside Prague’s City Hall on Wednesday by deliberately parking in front of the building in Marianské Náměstí. The taxi drivers blocked streets around the site as police on the scene issued fines to several of the taxi drivers who added to the protest by beeping their horns. The protests are in favour of recently rejected proposals to introduce a minimum per kilometre tariff of 24 crowns for all of the city’s taxis. The action began in Prague’s Strahov district at around 1pm, with drivers then making their way to City Hall. Presently, only a maximum tariff of 28 crowns is in effect, with mayor Bohuslav Svoboda arguing that a minimum fee would reduce competition in the taxi market. Hundreds of taxi drivers have reportedly signed a petition in favour of the minimum tariff plan.
Illegally built Pardubice villa faces demolition
A luxury villa built illegally in Pardubice’s Na Špici park faces demolition after a ruling by local planning authorities, following four years of legal wrangling. The villa was built without seeking planning permission by local resident Miloš Holeček at a cost of 10 million crowns. Its owner appealed to local courts an initial ruling which also found that the building was in breach of local zoning rules, and this has now been upheld, meaning that the demolition must take place within several months. Further, authorities have ruled that Holeček must pay for the demolition himself or face having to pay the price tag for the city arranging the demolition. Holeček claims that local politicians reneged on an earlier promise to change zoning requirements that would make the structure legal. He has now promised to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights over the dispute.
Government neutral on proposals to make TV ads same volume as programmes
The Czech government has said it remains neutral on a proposal by MP to force TV stations to broadcast television advertisements at the same volume as regular programming - presently, commercials can be considerably louder. According to Deputy PM Karolína Peake, the plan will go to MPs, who will decide its fate free of government lobbying. Under the proposals, volume levels would be monitored by the Radio and Television Council (RRTV), with violations leading to fines of up the five million crowns. Trailers and teasers would also have to be at the same volume as regular programming. A similar law was passed in Slovakia in 2007.
Zlín man faces prison sentence after home counterfeiting operation falls flat
A 24-year-old Zlín man has been arrested after trying to pass a fake 500 crown note, which he created by scanning a real banknote and then printing out copies on his home printer. According to police, the man tried to pass off one of the notes at a pub; the suspicious waitress immediately notified police leading to the culprit’s arrest. According to police, the man then confessed to having produced a total of 289 fake 500 crown banknotes, citing financial hardship as the key motivation. He now faces between three and five years in prison.
Clear skies continue across much of the Czech Republic, with temperatures around 5 degrees Celsius. However, Thursday is expected to bring overcast skies and prolonged showers or even snowfall.