A court of appeals has extended the prison sentence for former Communist secret police agent Jiri Simak. In 2002, a Prague court found him guilty of torturing political prisoners in 1981 and sentenced him to three years. The court of appeals has now increased the sentence to four years in prison. At least two former dissidents have come forward describing how Mr Simak tortured them as part of the secret police operation Asanace or Clearance, aimed at forcing opponents of the Communist regime to flee the country.
A member of parliament for the Social Democratic Party, Martin Kraus,
has said he would give up two influential functions amidst allegations
of corruption. Mr Kraus has been under pressure to explain why he
agreed to participate in a dubious deal to buy a Ghanaian cocoa bean
factory in 2001. The newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes goes as far as
suspecting Mr Kraus of money laundering.
Mr Kraus says he is innocent but will give up the post of head of Parliament's budget committee and the group of Social Democrat Deputies. But he will not give up his mandate as has Civic Democrat Vladimir Dolezal, who is also accused of corruption and proclaims his innocence.
Ten churches in the Czech Republic have called on to Czech President Vaclav Klaus and the Senate (the upper house of Parliament) to reject a bill on registered same-sex partnerships. The bill was approved by the Lower House in mid-December and has yet to get the green light from the Senate and the President. One of the churches' arguments against it is that the Czech Republic has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and cannot afford to encourage homosexual partnerships.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has angered President Vaclav Klaus with a
letter on state policy regarding the country's sensitive post-war period.
In the letter sent to Coexistencia (an association that promotes the
rights of minorities) Mr Paroubek states that a gesture made by his
government last summer towards ethnic Germans who opposed the Nazi
occupation of Czechoslovakia was also for ethnic Hungarians.
A spokesman for Mr Klaus said the president has demanded an explanation why he was neither consulted nor informed about the letter and only found out about its existence from his Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Solyom, who visited Prague on Thursday. Mr Paroubek says he felt no need to discuss it with the president because the gesture towards the Hungarian minority is part of a government resolution from last August.
Fishermen and fire fighters transferred some 800 kilograms of dying fish to clean water bodies on Thursday after several dozen fish were found dead in the river Elbe near three towns in Central Bohemia. It has yet to be determined what killed the fish. Water samples have been taken to a laboratory to test for toxic substances.
The Czech Republic's Human Rights Commissioner, Svatopluk Karasek, strongly opposes plans by the country's right National Party to erect a memorial at the site of a former detention camp in South Bohemia. In 1942, over 1,200 Czech Romanies were interned in the Czech-run camp before being sent to Auschwitz. An inscription on the National Party's memorial is to refute claims that the site was a concentration camp and run by Czech guards.
The biggest state health insurer, VZP, is to receive by the end of the week three billion crowns (120 million dollars) to help it pay its debts to doctors and hospitals. The health and finance ministers agreed on the move at a meeting on Wednesday. Currently there is a two-month delay in VZP payments, and this money is intended to shorten that period by around a week and a half. The health insurer has been in turmoil in recent months.
Companies would receive tax breaks for contributing towards holidays their employees spend in the Czech Republic under a proposal from Social Democrat MP Miroslav Svoboda. The daily Pravo reported that the contribution would amount to 10,000 crowns (around 400 US dollars) and said other Social Democrats backed the plan, which is aimed at supporting tourism in the Czech Republic.
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New debate erupts over use of -ová suffix in Czech female surnames
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