Meanwhile, the abbot of Strahov Monastery in Prague, Michael Josef Pojezdný, has praised Mr. Zeman for refusing to appoint Mr. Putna, who is a practising Roman Catholic, professor. However, it is unclear why the abbot – who reportedly made the comments during a meeting with Mr. Zeman on another matter – has backed the president, as he has refused to speak to the media. This has led to speculation that it may be because of Mr. Putna’s liberal politics or the fact that he is openly homosexual. Academics have also been up in arms, with the rector of Prague’s Charles University, Václav Hampl, saying that Mr. Zeman would need to have very serious reasons for not naming Mr. Putna professor; otherwise the move would represent an unacceptable intervention.
A major EU-wide survey ranks the Czech Republic as a relatively tolerant country to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. The poll, conducted by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights among 93,000 people in the bloc’s member states plus Croatia, found that around 26 percent of gay people have faced attacks or violent threats due to their sexuality which is the same share as registered in the Czech Republic. Another 20 percent of those surveyed said they had been discriminated against at work or when looking for a job; in the Czech Republic, 10 percent of LGBT people said they faced such discrimination.
Twelve refugees from Chechnya were discovered by the Czech police travelling in a van near Rozvadov in western Bohemia. Members of the group, which included six children, had applied for asylum in Poland, and according to the Dublin Convention were meant to remain there until a decision was made about their applications. The Russian citizens told the Czech police that they were travelling to Germany. Since they have no legal status in other EU states besides the country of entry, the Czech authorities have asked their Polish colleagues to take the group into their custody.
The organisers of a martial arts show in Prague have bowed to pressure from the media and sponsors and cancelled an appearance by a Hungarian fighter who’s covered from head to toe in Nazi tattoos. Attila Petrovszki, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Hungary, had been due to appear at the event - his tattoos covered in a T-shirt - on Friday; now organisers are looking for a replacement.
The Czech Republic’s Jewish Community says expressions of anti-Semitism are growing in the country, mainly on the internet. In an annual report, the community attributed the increase to rising tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the pro-Israeli stance of the Czech government and the fact that Jan Fischer, who is Jewish, stood in presidential elections. However, the report said that anti-Semitism was not common in the Czech Republic and that the number of physical incidents had not increased on recent years. An official said a controversial government bill to return property to churches had also contributed to antipathy towards Jews.
Cardinal Dominik Duka took part in a commemorative ceremony for Romany victims of the Holocaust at the Lety memorial in southern Bohemia on Monday. The event was attended by a number of foreign ambassadors, cultural dignitaries and Roma representatives. Czech political leaders were notably absent this year, with the exception of the deputy speaker of the Senate Miluše Horská. The Lety memorial, unveiled in 1995 by then president Václav Havel, is situated close to the site of a former concentration camp for Romanies where 300 Romany prisoners lost their lives and from where hundreds of others were transported to the Auschwitz extermination camp. The fact that a pig farm is located on the site of the former camp has been the source of considerable controversy and embarrassment to the Czech government which says it does not have the money to relocate it.
Close to 100 Romany representatives from around the Czech Republic are meeting in Prague to finalize preparations for the establishment of the Romany Democratic Party. The head of the preparatory committee Miroslav Tancos told the CTK news agency the circumstances of the Romany minority would not improve unless it was represented in politics. There are around 250,000 Romanies living in the Czech Republic and a third of them live in slums. A vast number of Romanies are unemployed. An earlier Romany party, set up in 2005, was dissolved by the Supreme Administrative court two years ago, for failing to meet the conditions stipulated by law.
The police have charged 25 people with tax fraud relating to imported goods from Asia. Among those charged are five customs officers and several Vietnamese nationals. The damages could reach millions of crowns. Individual members of the group have also been charged with organized crime and taking or soliciting bribes.
A neo-Nazi march took place in Přerov, a town in eastern Czech Republic, on Wednesday. Around three hundred far-right extremists participated in the event which included a rally in the centre of the town followed by a march. The police reinforced their presence in the town; some seven hundred officers oversaw the rally in Přerov which was extremist groups’ main event held this year on May 1 in the country, according to the organizers.