Police say they are leaning toward the view that a fatal explosion at an apartment building in the north Moravian town of Frenštát pod Radhoštěm on Sunday was caused deliberately by a resident. Police chief Martin Červíček said on Tuesday that he believed a serious criminal act had been committed. Another police representative said reports that a 62-year-old man who lived in the basement of the building had barricaded the doors had not been confirmed. The fire is thought to have broken out in different parts of the structure at the same time. At least five people were killed in the blast, including the suspected arsonist and three children. Two survivors are fighting for their lives in hospital.
The renowned Czech jazz musician and flautist Jiří Stivín has said he will not appear at a special concert for President Václav Klaus that is set to take place on March 3, less than a week before the head of state steps down after a decade in office. Mr. Stivín said he has disagreed with some of the positions adopted by Mr. Klaus recently, including his criticisms of his predecessor, Václav Havel; he said if he appeared at a show “thanking” Václav Klaus it might appear he agreed with his presidency. The president has taken an active interest in a series of concerts entitled Jazz at the Castle since it began at Prague Castle in 2004.
František Čuba, the 77-year-old former head of a Communist-era agricultural collective, will serve as an advisor on farming issues to President Miloš Zeman when he is installed at Prague Castle, the two men announced after a meeting on Tuesday. Mr. Čuba, who is a member of Mr. Zeman’s Citizens’ Rights Party, is known for heading a collective farm at Slušovice in South Moravia in the 1980s; the farm achieved a “socialist miracle” by branching out into other areas of the economy and generating huge turnover.
Reacting to developments surrounding CEZ's position in Bulgaria, the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, said on Tuesday that he expected that Bulgaria, as an EU member, would adhere to its international commitments and treaties regarding the protection of investments. Mr. Nečas said he believed the dispute over electricity prices had become politicised and said comments made by Bulgarian officials were out of the ordinary. Speaking in Brussels, the Czech minister of industry and trade, Martin Kuba, said the situation was alarming, adding that he was prepared to discuss the matter with the European Commission.
Sixty-eight percent of Czech households regularly sort their waste, suggests a study carried out by the STEM/MARK agency. Only 4 percent of respondents said they never sorted their waste, saying they believed that all rubbish ended up in the same place anyway. The mostly commonly sorted items are paper, plastic and glass, with sorting figures of above 90 percent, while only 42 percent of those surveyed said they separated biodegradable waste.
A court case against 18 right-wing extremists opened in Brno on Monday. Some of the accused are members of neo-Nazi bands such as Devils Guard, Imperium or Attack. The others assisted in organizing at least 14 concerts in the years 2008 and 2009 at which they distributed the band’s CDs, leaflets, badges and neo-Nazi memorabilia. If convicted of spreading Nazi ideology members of the group would each face up to eight years in prison. It is one of the biggest court cases against neo-Nazis in the country’s modern history.
There has been an improvement in the quality of air in parts of Moravia and Silesia after the regions’ biggest polluters were ordered to scale-down production. The regulatory measures introduced on Sunday have also placed restrictions on car traffic. The concentration of dust particles in the air still exceeds permitted levels, but is significantly lower that at the weekend when pollution in the worst affected areas was four times higher than norms permit. The authorities have now lifted the restrictions on producers but a smog alert remains in place.
The Social Democrats have filed a constitutional complaint against the law on church restitutions. The complaint is based on the argument that the scope of the restitution, which amounts to 135 billion crowns, is inflated and churches are allegedly set to receive more than was confiscated by the communist regime after 1948. Senator Jeroným Tejc, who filed the complaint in his name on Monday, noted that 7 of the 17 churches and religious groupings who are benefactors under the restitution law did not even exist before the fall of communism in 1989. The law’s critics also warn that the legislation could open the door to claims for property seized by the state before the communists took power in 1948. The restitution law, approved by Parliament late last year, envisages a transfer of land and property to the tune of 75 billion crowns and compensation money for the rest to the tune of 59 billion crowns to be paid by the state over a period of 30 years.
President-elect Milos Zeman said on Monday that he would do his best to consolidate the Czech constitutional court by filling its vacancies with all possible speed. He said he intended to propose four candidates for constitutional court judges shortly after his inauguration in March and another four in June. The term of seven judges of the 15-member court will expire this year. The court lacks three judges even now and further vacancies would present a serious problem. Moreover the mandate of the court’s chairman Pavel Rychetsky is due to expire in the summer. Mr. Zeman said he would propose his reappointment to the post. Candidates for constitutional judges are nominated by the president and confirmed or rejected by the Senate.
Former MP Petr Wolf who was sentenced to 6 years in jail for financial fraud is still on the run after failing to report to prison late last year but he is reportedly paying the penalty set by the court. He was last seen in the vicinity of his home around Christmas and the police believe he must have fled the Czech Republic. An Interpol warrant has been issued for his arrest.
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