Pavel Pribyl announced on Friday evening that he was resigning as head of the Office of the Government, saying evidence had come to light that members of a riot-police unit he led beat up anti-Communist demonstrators in 1989. Opposition to Mr Pribyl's recent appointment by Prime Minister Stanislav Gross had been mounting; hundreds of people gathered outside the Office of the Government on Tuesday to call for his sacking, and another demonstration had been planned for next week.
The Czech team have taken their third medal at the Olympic Games in
Athens, bronze for Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek in the men's
two-man kayak slalom. Stepanek said the two had felt under immense
pressure for the previous two days, and were extremely relieved
Friday's final went well. Slovak twins Peter and Pavol Hochschorner
took gold in the event.
Meanwhile, Czech tennis player Tomas Berdych was knocked out in the quarterfinals at the Olympics by Taylor Dent of the USA on Thursday evening. The 18-year-old from Prostejov had earlier beaten world number one Roger Federer. And Martina Navratilova will not realise her dream of crowning her career with a first Olympic medal, after she and her US doubles partner were beaten in the quarterfinals.
Among Czech medal hopefuls on Saturday will be Vaclav Chalupa, who won silver in rowing at the 1992 Olympics, and Vera Pospisilova-Cechlova in the discus.
Freedom Union deputy Zdenek Koristka has said he was offered a large bribe
by the opposition Civic Democrats not to support the government in a vote
of confidence next Tuesday. Mr Koristka told Friday's edition of the
newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes a person acting on behalf of the Civic
Democrats had offered him 10 million crowns (over 300,000 euros), a claim
which has been strenuously denied by the party. Chairman Mirek Topolanek
said he was considering filing charges of slander against Mr Koristka, who
said he rejected the alleged bribe but did not report the matter to the
police at the time. He has since been questioned.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, Lubomir Zaoralek said the affair cast doubt on the credibility of Parliament, and Tuesday's vote of confidence might have to be postponed. The government has a majority of just one in the 200-seat Lower House.
Two teams of Czech canoeists are through to the semi-finals of the men's C2 doubles event at the Olympic Games. Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek finished 13.31 seconds off the pace of the of the Slovakian leaders, placing third, while the team of Marek Jiras and Tomas Mader finished 27.95 seconds off, placing ninth. Czech canoeist Ondrej Raab finished in ninth place in the men's solo K-1 qualification race.
The embattled Head of the Government Office, Pavel Pribyl, has apologised for not having been "on the right side of the barricade" during the anti-communist demonstrations of January 1989 and acknowledged that he was at that time a commander of a police anti-riot unit. But in a statement published in the Pravo newspaper on Thursday, Mr Pribyl said that neither he nor any of the police under his command beat demonstrators. "I was a 25-year old kid who received a task. I had to perform professionally, but at the same time I tried my utmost to do so as humanly as possible," Mr Pribyl writes. A group of some 100 people, including prominent artists and former dissidents, have signed a petition calling for Mr Pribyl's resignation; the group also staged a protest rally outside the Cabinet headquarters on Tuesday.
The government coalition has agreed on the final version of the draft policy statement, Prime Minister and Social Democrat chairman Stanislav Gross told reporters on Thursday, following five hours of talks with the other party leaders in government. The agenda calls for more fiscal restraint than did earlier drafts, with calls to offset new government spending with cuts in other areas. Planned steps to be taken in this regard include tightening the conditions for receiving welfare and trimming the wages of state employees. In an effort to fight corruption, public officials would also be required to make public their assets and monitored cash registers with electronic memory would be introduced.
The three parties of the coalition government have completed work on the government's policy programme. The Cabinet is to meet on Thursday to give it an official stamp of approval, before its expected publication. Over the past few days the three parties of the coalition government debated several controversial points pertaining to child benefits, foreign policy and weirs on the river Elbe. The Social Democrats laid emphasis on helping the socially weaker groups of the population, in particular young families with children, but the Christian Democrats and Freedom Union urged restraint pointing out the need to curb public spending. The government is expected to ask Parliament for a vote of confidence on August 24th.