- The politicians Vít Bárta and Jaroslav Škárka have been acquitted of all charges in a joint bribery case by a Prague circuit court.
- The government has approved a draft amendment that would strip incarcerated lawmakers of their salaries and benefits.
- The Prague Municipal Court has filed a challenge to the presidential amnesty with the Constitutional Court.
- An annual dog sledding race Šediváčkův long has taken off in the Orlické mountains.
- A smog alert has been issued in two regions, with the whole country registering dust particle concentration twice the permitted limit.
Prague Circuit Court confirms acquittal of Bárta and Škárka
The Prague 5 Circuit Court has acquitted the former Transport Ministrer Vít Bárta and former Public Affairs Party MP Jaroslav Škárka of all charges in a bribery case that the court first ruled on in April 2012. The circuit judge Jan Šott thus confirmed a ruling of the Prague Municipal Court from November. Mr Bárta, who is also the former head of the Public Affairs Party deputies club, was accused of bribing his fellow party members Kristýna Kočí and Jaroslav Škárka to gain influence. Because Mr Škárka had spent part of the money he received from Mr Bárta before reporting it, he was also accused of accepting a bribe. Last April, Judge Šott handed down a suspended 18-month sentence to Mr Bárta and a three-year jail sentence for Mr Škárka. But in November, the municipal court accepted the appeals of both defendants, reversing the previous ruling. After confirming the city’s ruling on Wednesday, Mr Šott said that his hands were tied by the higher court’s decision, and that the whole case has become political. The State Attorney’s office will appeal the case with the Municipal Court.
Government approves not paying lawmakers in jail
The government has approved a draft amendment that would strip lawmakers who are incarcerated or in custody pending trial of their government salaries and benefits. The proposal by the leading government party, the Civic Democrats, is based on the premise that senators or MPs cannot fulfill their mandate from jail. The opposition Social Democrats believe that the Constitutional Court would strike down the law if were to pass through Parliament. The only MP that has been sentenced to jail time so far this term is the former Civic Democrat Roman Pekárek. The Social Democrat David Rath is awaiting trial on corruption charges.
Prague Municipal Court considers amnesty unconstitutional
The Prague Municipal Court judge has submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of the whole of the amnesty that was issued by President Václav Klaus on 1 January. The petition deems the entire amnesty as unconstitutional mainly on the basis that it was not discussed by all the members of the government. The amnesty was signed by the president and countersigned by the prime minister. Apparently, the only other member of the government who knew about the amnesty before it was announced was the Justice Minister Pavel Blažek. The Municipal Court asked the Constitutional Court to either strike the amnesty down in its entirety or, as an alternative solution, to strike down a provision that halted some long running criminal cases.
Havlová endorses Schwarzenberg
The wife of the late Václav Havel, Dagmar Havlová, endorsed presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg on Wednesday. The foreign minister was President Havel’s chancellor for roughly two years in the 1990s. A number of public figures and artists have expressed support for Mr Schwarzenberg in the past week. His opponent Miloš Zeman received backing, for example, from popular singer Helena Vondráčková and filmmaker Filip Renč.
Zeman would not meet Dalai Lama if elected president
Miloš Zeman says he would not meet the Dalai Lama if he were elected Czech president in a vote that takes place on Friday and Saturday. In a debate with his opponent Karel Schwarzenberg held by the think tank European Values on Tuesday, Mr. Zeman said he would only meet the Tibetan spiritual leader if he himself were a religious leader, or if the Dalai Lama was a big investor. For his part, Mr. Schwarzenberg said his rival’s position was an acceptance of Chinese propaganda. While the late Václav Havel repeatedly met the Tibetan spiritual leader, his successor as president, Václav Klaus, has consistently refused to meet him since he was prime minister in the 1990s.
School principal shoots himself
A principal of a school in the town of Bor near Tachov in the Plzeň region has shot himself, the iDnes news website reported on Wednesday afternoon. According to the police spokesperson it was most likely a suicide, since the thirty-five-year-old man allegedly left a letter. The school where he was from had made it into the headlines last year, when one of its teachers and a former regional head of the Civic Democratic Party Vladimír Dub was given a four-year suspended sentence for having sexual relations with an underage student.
Football Association’s Disciplinary Committee chairman quits post
The chairman of the disciplinary committee of Czech Football Association Jiří Golda has stepped down on Wednesday in protest against the FA’s decision to suspend the investigation of referee bribing. The association has decided to let the police investigate the allegations. FA’s chairman Miroslav Pelta who suggested the move said that the police are better prepared for dealing with corruption cases.
Ice Age topped Czech charts last year
Last year the most watch film in theatres in the Czech Republic was not a local production – it was Ice Age 4. The family friendly cartoon drew in just over 670 thousand viewers in the movie theatres. The Czech film You Kiss Like the Devil came in second with around 501 thousand viewers. The next few spots down on the list also belonged to foreign films. The year before, the top spot was taken by Muži v nadějí, or Men in Hope, that was seen by over 850 000 moviegoers. Nonetheless, 2012 saw 400 thousand more people go to the movies in the Czech Republic than in the previous year.
Dog sledding competition takes off in Orlické mountains
The annual dog sledding race Šediváčkův long has begun in Orlické mountains in the northeast of the country. Around one hundred mushers with some 700 dogs set out on a 245-kilometer long track that they will have to complete in snow and freezing temperatures by Saturday. In the highest parts of the Orlické mountains there was around 60 centimeters of snow, temperatures during the day are somewhere around -10 degrees Celsius. Participants are travelling on different vessels, including cross-country skis and bikes, and with a different number of dogs.
Smog situation worsens around the country
The average daily concentration of dust particles in the air exceeded the permitted limit of 50 micrograms per square meter in all regions of the country on Wednesday. In more of the measuring stations the daily average is around twice the permitted amount. Meteorologists have issued a smog alert in the Moravia-Silesian region on Monday, and in the Ústí nad Labem region on Wednesday. The regional administrations have ask residents to limit car use as much as possible. People with chronic lung or heart problems, young children and seniors are being asked to refrain from strenuous physical activity outdoors.
It will be overcast with daytime highs between -6 and -2 degrees Celsius. There may be light snow throughout the day.