News Still no final decision on National Library building
A team of experts has failed to reach a final decision on approving plans by architect Jan Kaplický for a new National Library building. The team announced on Wednesday that it would refer the matter to the Office for the Protection of Competition to ascertain whether an architectural contest to come up with a design for the building was conducted in a proper and fair manner.
Kaplicky’s building, which has been nicknamed “The Blob” because of its outlandish futuristic appearance, has proven highly controversial since it was initially chosen for the planned new National Library building on Prague’s Letná Plain last year. It is not clear when a final decision on the building will now be made. Architect Jan Kaplický has since said that he will take the matter to an international court if it is not resolved soon.
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The National Security Authority will investigate the State Security Council over the possible leaking of information, the news website Echo24.cz reported. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka called for the investigation after details of the government’s actions with regard to Czechs held hostage in Lebanon and Pakistan were made public. The weekly Respekt reported that the state paid USD 6 million for the release of two Czech women kidnapped in Pakistan, while details have also emerged with regard to the freeing of five Czechs abducted in Lebanon and the subsequent release of a Lebanese man in custody in Prague. The State Security council is composed of several ministers and other senior public officials.
Former Brno police chief Jaroslav Přikryl has failed in an appeal against an 18-month jail term for quashing the fines of acquaintances and misusing personal data in police files. Mr. Přikryl – once spoken about as a possible national police president – missed the date he was due to begin serving his sentence, claiming health problems. He was found guilty of quashing traffic fines handed out to 20 acquaintances.
Security expert Adam Dolník says it is untrue that one of two Czech women kidnapped in Pakistan for over two years attempted to return to her abductors. Quoting the Czech security services, the weekly Respekt wrote on Monday that Hana Humpálová was stopped at the Turkish border while attempting to reach Pakistan in the autumn. Speaking to Lidovky.cz, Mr. Dolník also said that reporting how much the Czech state paid for the pair’s release would endanger others by raising the expectations of kidnappers. Respekt has defended its actions in reporting that the government handed over USD 6 million for the women’s release.
The police have rejected criticism from the justice minister for not taking action against masked men hurling missiles at left-wing activists in Prague on Saturday. Police president Tomáš Tuhý said on Tuesday that the force had acted professionally. Suspicions that individual officers acted inadequately are being investigated, he said. The minister of justice, Robert Pelikán, said commanding officers bore responsibility for failing to order action against individuals who were breaking the law by wearing masks and carrying weapons at a demonstration. The minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, said he would proper investigation took time and rejected “show trials”.
Czech legend Jaromír Jágr notched his 1,600th NHL career game on Monday, but his team, the Florida Panthers, lost 3:0 against the Detroit Red Wings. Czech goalie Petr Mrázek got the shutout while Jakub Kindl picked up an assist.
A new poll conducted by TNS Aisa as part of a project entitled Trendy Česka (Czech Trends) suggests that the ANO movement would gain 30 percent of the vote in a national election today. ANO finished well ahead of fellow ruling coalition members the Social Democrats, who notched 20 percent. The opposition Civic Democrats ranked third, at 10 percent – one percent higher than the Communists. Opposition party TOP 09 and junior coalition member the Christian Democrats were the last parties to pass the five percent threshold needed to gain seats in the lower house of Parliament. Some 1,200 people were questioned in the poll.
The Defence Ministry has announced plans to spend around 1.2 billion crowns on munitions in 2016 to refill depleted stocks especially for ground and air forces. The news was confirmed on Monday by the ministry press department’s Jiří Caletka. Stocks dropped in years of austerity measures introduced by the last centre-right government. The estimate is not final, depending on the result of public tenders as well as the exchange rate in the case of purchases by NSPA serving NATO members.
The head of the opposition Civic Democrats Petr Fiala has slammed the National Security Council over information reported in the media that an alleged six million crown ransom was paid for the release of two Czech women held in Pakistan last year. Antonie Chrástecká and Hana Humpálová were released last March after two years of captivity. At the time, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec denied that any negotiations were held or ransom paid to the kidnappers, believed to be linked to al-Qaeda. In its most recent issue, the weekly Respekt claims otherwise. Petr Fiala criticised not the ransom but the leak of information, which – in his view – could put other Czechs at risk in the future.
The police watchdog, the General Police Inspectorate, as well as the Czech police hierarchy said on Monday that they will investigate how a series of pro and anti-immigrant demonstrations in Prague were handled on Saturday. The pledges follow criticism that the police stood by on some occasions and might have provoked incidents on others. A statement by the police presidium said that no conclusions about failings or otherwise would be arrived at before a proper examination of the facts. Bosses at public broadcaster Czech Radio complained that police failed to intervene at one point on Saturday when a broadcast van came under attack by some demonstrators. Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec has called for a full report from the police within two weeks.
The Czech government on Monday discussed the terms of a deal demanded by Britain on reform of the European Union. On the key issue of withholding some benefits to workers from other EU countries, the Czech government is arguing that such a move only be applied to newly arrived workers and not those already living in Britain. As part of a proposed deal unveiled last week by European Council president Donald Tusk, Britain would be allowed to limit work related benefits if the influx of workers put too much pressure on its system. Czech State Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza said Prague’s final position will be hammered out with its Visegrad regional partners ahead of a summit next week on the reforms.