A group of students gathered in the Old Town at noon on Tuesday to protest against the sale of St. Michael's Church. The art history students and some of their professors marched from the cultural monument in the city's Old Town district to the ministry of culture and the government headquarters. St. Michael's Church came into private ownership last year but the sale has not been without controversy. Some experts in the cultural sector say the church should have been sold at a higher price; others say the sales contract is not binding and that the church is still the property of the state.
President Vaclav Klaus has said he is seriously concerned about the information submitted by the head of the elite organized crime unit and expects an immediate and unbiased investigation. The President's spokesman said that Mr. Klaus did not want to interfere in such a sensitive case so close to the elections but that immediately after them he would ask to be informed about progress on the case.
President Vaclav Klaus has ordered the release from custody of Jiri Fiala, a candidate for the Party of Common Sense in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Fiala has been charged with attacking a public figure and questioning the independence of the court over a case involving his paternity rights. Fiala has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that he has been denied access to his children. President Klaus said all candidates in the elections should have an equal chance to address voters and asked the authorities to conduct the investigation without keeping Fiala in custody.
The Education Ministry has refused to withdraw a textbook for eighth graders which has been severely criticized by the Church. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk called for its withdrawal earlier this week saying that excerpts from Francois Cavanna's work The Holy Scripture ridiculed the Bible. The ministry said that it saw no reason to withdraw the textbook and pointed out that the Czech Bishops Conference had seen and approved it before its publication. The publishing house Fraus which issued the book said the excerpts are used to illustrate travesty as a literary style.
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has rejected charges that top government officials have been hampering the work of the country's elite organized crime unit, saying that the accusations were part of an election smear campaign. Late on Monday Jan Kubice, head of the elite unit for fighting organized crime, told a parliamentary committee that Paroubek and other top officials had hindered his unit's work in order to shield Social Democrat colleagues and that criminals had infiltrated the civil service. Evidence supporting the charges was not made public. The PM called a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday to deny the allegations telling journalists that the opposition Civic Democrats had fabricated the charges to swing voters ahead of the poll.
Detectives from the national anti-drug squad have busted a gang that is suspected of organizing the sale of ecstasy at discos in the centre of Prague. Three Israeli nationals have been taken into custody and charged with illegal production and sale of drugs. The police confiscated thousands of ecstasy tables as well as cocaine, marihuana and LSD.
Miroslav Vana an MP for the ruling Social Democrats was assaulted by an unknown attacker outside his home in Pardubice on Monday night. Vana suffered a head injury and was bruised and shaken by the incident. He says he did not see the attacker, only heard footsteps behind him and felt a blow to the head before falling down unconscious. This is the second physical attack against an MP in recent weeks. The first was against communist party MP Jiri Dolejs who was beaten up by unknown attackers at the end of April. He sustained head and eye injuries and said he was convinced it was a politically motivated attack.
The fourth annual Sustainable Development Week was launched in Prague on Monday. Until June 2, conferences, workshops, presentations and discussions will be held at various venues around Prague focusing on sustainable production and consumption. The project is organised by the Czech Environment Ministry in co-operation with the French, British, and the Swiss embassies.
A high ranking police officer has reported that organised crime groups are influencing the state administration. Speaking before Parliament's Defence and Security Committee, the head of the Czech Police's elite organised crime unit, Jan Kubice, said on Monday that investigations of three serious cases have shown that some politicians are tied to organised crime groups. Mr Kubice says the evidence he has to back his claim is confidential. He presented it to the parliamentary committee during its closed session on Monday afternoon.
A group of Czech filmmakers have withdrawn their productions from a prestigious international film festival in Moravia in protest at what they call a lack of support for the Czech film industry by politicians. In their last session before the elections, Czech deputies failed to overturn a presidential veto of higher financial support for filmmakers last week. In protest, films such as Restart (director Julius Sevcik), Shark in the Head (director Maria Prochazkova), Still Living (director Pavel Gobl) and The City of the Sun (director Martin Sulik), have been taken out of the prestigious 46th Zlin International Film Festival for Children and the Youth. The festival was launched on Monday and will screen 410 films from 35 countries until Saturday.
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“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery