Czech Press Agency reporters are opening an exhibition of photographs of former president Václav Havel. The exhibition at the Old Town Hall in Prague covers archive photos from the years 1988 to 2011. Organisers say the selection focuses on circumstances playing out around the former president and moments of relief after political tension. Many of the photographs have never been published. The Exhibition will run from June 15 to July 6.
The opposition Social Democrats hope to weaken the right-wing coalition parties in this autumn’s local elections, enough to bring about an early general election in the spring of 2013. In a speech posted on the party’s website, chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said local elections would be a referendum on the three-party coalition government and said the election manifesto that his party’s executive committee would approve on Sunday would concern the future of Czech regions and the country as a whole.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry has reported that the purchase of the CASA aircraft was preceded by a marketing study carried out by ministry employees to determine their proper price. A ministry spokesman told the Czech Press Agency on Thursday that in orders where a legal exception from public tenders is used, marketing or feasibility studies are made by standard procedure. In the case of former minister Parkanová, he said, the Defence Ministry provided investigators with all necessary documents for the case.
Controversial business tycoon Roman Janoušek has reportedly offered a financial settlement to a 51-year-old woman he hit with his car while intoxicated in April. While not enumerating the offer, Mr Janoušek’s lawyer says the sum amounts to several times the damages established by the victim’s physicians. The victim’s lawyer says that their legal teams will continue to negotiate, as her treatment is still ongoing. Mr Janoušek reportedly ran the woman over when she tried to stop him because of a minor accident he had caused moments earlier. He was then stopped by police and tried to escape on foot before being detained. The incident occurred just days after the breaking of a major municipal scandal in which he was involved.
The anti-corruption force of the police has suspended an investigation into the financing of the former coalition party Public Affairs. According to the daily Právo, the police dismissed suspicions of money laundering within the party in May. The investigation focused primarily on the circumstances around large monetary donations made to party coffers by millionaire MP Michal Babák, considered the party’s financial guru. The police say the investigation did show irregularities, but not enough to prosecute; a view the state prosecutor accepted.
Deputy TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek has criticised the police for seeking to prosecute his fellow party member, MP Vlasta Parkanová. The request to strip Parkanová of immunity was an example of the police force’s haphazard behaviour, Mr Kalousek said, adding that the flimsy case against her amounted to charges of witchcraft. A former defence minister, Ms Parkanová is suspected of abuse of public office in connection with a 3.5 billion crown purchase of three Spanish-made transport CASA planes and other suspected irregularities. The police cite her for failing to order an expert opinion to verify the price of the aircraft. In her defence, Mr Kalousek said that the military have their own experts to assess orders and that independent analyses cannot be made for sensitive data. Parkanová herself insists she did nothing illegal in the case.
The Regional Court in Brno has overturned a nearly one billion crown fine imposed by the antitrust office (UOHS) on sixteen international engineering companies for forming a cartel. The fine was the highest that UOHS has imposed in its history. The case will now be returned to UOHS, unless the antitrust watchdog files a complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court. The court did not deny existence of a cartel, or the fact that it affected the Czech market, but ruled that it was unclear which companies from which concerns had taken part in it. UOHS welcomed the confirmation of the cartel, and said only it would be considering what steps to take next.
Former dissident and government minister Jaroslav Šabata died in Brno after a long illness in the early hours of Thursday at the age of 84. Jaroslav Šabata, who was born in the south Moravian village of Dolenice in 1927, joined the communist party after WWII, and was a prominent figure of the Prague Spring. He left the party in 1969 and founded a group called Communists in Opposition. In 1977, he signed the human rights manifesto Charter 77 and served as one of its spokespersons between 1978 and 1981. He was jailed twice for his political activities by the communist authorities; in total he spent seven years in prison. After the fall of communism, Jaroslav Šabata became an MP and served as a government minister between 1990 and 1991.
Telephone service providers may have to keep data on their clients’ locations and usage for six months, according to an amendment to the Electronic Communications Act, which is now in its final reading in Parliament. If passed, the law would require telephone and internet providers to record who communicated with whom, for how long and where. The data could then be requested by the police, the state prosecutor, military police, intelligence agency, the central bank or the courts.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday passed legislation that will slow down the growth of retirement pensions between 2013 and 2015. The legislation, part of the government’s austerity measures, will now be debated in the Senate. If approved, pensions will grow by 156 crowns a month rather than 428 crowns which means the state budget will save up to 50 billion crowns over the next three years. The opposition-controlled Senate is however likely to reject the bill.
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