A decision by Czech police to break-up a techno music festival in Mlynec,
west Bohemia, at the weekend has continued to draw political fire - from
both the opposition and some members of the government. On Saturday around
1,000 police in riot gear forcibly broke up the techno party - attended by
some 5,000 visitors - at the request of landowners who claimed visitors
had damaged their property. Police clashed with dozens of partygoers,
using tear gas and water cannons - leading to score of minor injuries on
both sides. Around 20 people required medical attention.
Although the Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan defended police steps as "necessary", others, including the country's president, Vaclav Klaus, have criticised the move, with the president saying that the use tear gas and water cannons was "inexcusable". Mr Klaus called the move a "gross blunder" and has already said he will call on the country's prime minister for an explanation.
Others, including opposition MP for the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, Ivan Langer, called Saturday's use of force "unprecedented" - in his view evocative of police brutality in former Czechoslovakia preceding the fall of Communism in 1989.
In related news, the Justice Minister Pavel Nemec, too, has asked Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan for a detailed report on police operations at CzechTek - saying that the media had raised some doubt on steps taken by police. Mr Nemec also said that the State Attorney's Office had not given instructions to the police on how to proceed - contrary to statements made by the prime minister and Mr Bublan at the weekend.
Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan has defended police intervention that
on Saturday brought to an end an illegal music festival known as Czechtek.
Police - numbering more than a thousand and in full riot gear - resorted to
using tear gas and water cannons against hundreds of partygoers on a meadow
near the village of Mlynec na Tachovsku, west Bohemia. Many refused to
leave the grounds and began throwing bottles. According to reports dozens
suffered mostly minor injuries, with around twenty partygoers and five
officers suffering more serious wounds requiring medical attention.
Despite the clash, the interior minister called the police intervention "necessary", though he said he regretted there had been injuries. Mr Bublan pointed out that officers decided to act following an assessment by a public prosecutor and an authorised expert at the scene, who backed earlier complaints by neighbouring landowners that visitors had damaged private property and broken the law. Police gave a half-hour advance warning before resorting to force to push attendees off the grounds. On the whole some 5,000 visitors attended the Czechtek festival before it was rolled up Saturday.
Steps taken by police at Czechtek on Saturday have drawn criticism from
at least one member of the opposition, right-of-centre Civic Democrat
MP - and shadow Interior Minister - Ivan Langer. On Saturday Mr Langer
accused police of bowing to political pressure from the Prime
Minister's office, saying police had not learned from similar events in
the past. But, the head of the Tachov region police, Jaromir Knize
rejected the charge.
Meanwhile, on Sunday hundreds of young people gathered in front of the Interior Ministry in Prague to protest the police crackdown.
The Czech Republic has officially accepted the military command of the KFOR mission in Kosovo for one year, beginning Sunday. Along with monitoring on the border with Serbia, Czech soldiers in the KFOR mission will now supervise the work of 1,500 counterparts from five other European countries. Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl praised European partners' confidence in the Czechs, who take over from the Finnish army. The Czech Republic is the first of the newer wave of NATO countries to be entrusted with command over other contingents. At present, the Czech Republic has about 500 soldiers in the Kosovo region.
One Czech man was killed during storms in north-west Bohemia on Friday when he took cover under a tree struck by lightning. Storms contributed to several accidents around the country including the derailment of two trains that struck fallen trees on the track. No one on the trains suffered injury. Elsewhere, trains failed to run on some routes as crews cleared fallen debris.
Czech opera singer Richard Haan made history on Friday when he became only the 9th Czech to successfully swim across La Manche - the English Channel. The 55-year-old completed the swim in 14 hours and 7 minutes after setting out from England's Dover. Haan is one of three Czechs who set their sights on the Channel this week.
Czech police have intervened at an allegedly illegal music festival -
known as Czechtek - held annually in the Czech Republic. Early Saturday
the festival, held on a meadow near the village of Mlynec na Tachovsku, in
west Bohemia, continued with some 5,000 visitors. But, police - numbering
more than a thousand in riot gear and backed, for example, by water
cannons - intervened Saturday afternoon, trying to force visitors off the
grounds. Part of a nearby highway was closed off. Several hundred visitors
reportedly refused to back down and began throwing bottles, at which point
police resorted to using tear gas.
The police intervention followed charges pressed by neighbouring landowners who complained that visiting fans had clogged local roads and had damaged private property.
Police intervened only following an assessment by a public prosecutor and an authorised expert saying that festival-goers had broken the law. But, the owner of the grounds has complained he rented the site to festival organisers legally.
In the past, Czechtek has courted no small measure of controversy: last year the event, held elsewhere in Bohemia, resulted in property damages of an estimated 1.4 million crowns - the equivalent of about 56,000 dollars US. At that time police also stepped in.
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