For health reasons, Bishop Jiří Paďour is stepping down as the head of the diocese in České Budějovice. The 70-year-old bishop tendered his resignation to Pope Francis last year. The Vatican confirmed on Saturday the move had been accepted. Bishop Paďour headed the diocese since 2002; he was a dissident under the former communist regime after refusing to collaborate with the StB, the secret police, in 1979.
The regional court in Plzeň has ordered a 47-year-old suspect to be remanded in custody in connection with a murder which took place two decades ago. Criminal investigators in Karlovy Vary arrested the man on Friday – ten days before the case would have come under the statute of limitations. The man is suspected of killing a 66-year-old in 1994 and then cementing his remains in the basement of a building in Marianské Lázně.
A 58-year-old man died in hospital on Friday, succumbing to methanol poisoning, the Czech News Agency reports. The man, from Moravec na Ždársku, fell gravely ill after drinking tainted liquor roughly a week ago. The police have charged a 37-year-old suspect in connection with the death, finding bottles of questionable alcohol in his home. Two years ago, the Czech Republic saw an outbreak of methanol poisoning after a deadly mix of bootleg alcohol illegally made it onto the market - more than 50 people lost their lives. Police suspect that some 4,000 litres are unaccounted for. If found guilty, the suspect could face up to eight years in jail.
The foreign minister of Ukraine’s newly-formed government, Andriy Deshchytsya, has said his country wants and association agreement with the EU and stabile relations with Russia. Following a meeting with the Visegrad goup foreign ministers in Kiev on Friday, Mr. Deshchytsya said the new Ukrainian government was prepared to open talks with Russia on stabilizing bilateral relations and in particular finding a peaceful solution to the unraveling crisis in Crimea. The representatives of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland assured Kiev they would provide whatever assistance was within their means. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said that in view of the situation in Crimea the most pressing issue now was to maintain the unity of the country. Meanwhile, the EU on Friday reiterated its offer of a free-trade pact with Ukraine, saying the country would see the economic benefits within weeks of signing the agreement.
The Czech government wants to join the criminal prosecution in the ongoing case involving the company Promopro which won a controversial public order for the supply of audio-visual equipment during the Czech EU presidency in 2009. The state is claiming 338 million crowns in damages, the amount by which the order was allegedly overpriced. The suspects have been charged with scheming in a public tender and auction, abuse of power and breach of trust. Alexander Vondra, who was responsible for the preparation of the Czech EU presidency and who was defence minister in 2010-2012, has not been charged.
Czech Post has announced it will stop selling cigarettes at its outlets around the country as of next week. The state-owned company launched the sale tobacco products late last year within a diversification strategy aimed at consolidating its finances. The sale of tobacco products has come under fire from both the public and members of Parliament.
An audit into the education system has revealed that 17,000 teachers at primary and secondary schools are underqualified. Education Minister Marcel Chládek said he was shocked by the statistics and was taking measures to correct the situation. Approximately 7,000 underqualified teachers will have to leave their posts, 6,000 are already working on upgrading their qualification and another 4,000 have promised to do so without delay. Exceptions have been made for teachers over 60 who have taught for at least 15 years.
A court in Brno has found 11 members of the notorious Tofl gang guilty of bribery, extortion and abuse of office. They received sentences of 3 to 9 years and hefty fines. The gang is named after a former head of the regional economic crime squad who together with several former colleagues threatened entrepreneurs. They elicited large sums of money for withdrawing trumped up charges against them and in some cases even threatened to murder or abduct family members if the money was not delivered. The court heard over 100 witnesses in the case which attracted intense media attention.
Police President Petr Lessy is vacating his post as of March 1. He tendered his resignation in February in order to help restore stability in the force following a period when, due to a legal hurdle, it had two police chiefs. Petr Lessy, who was dismissed after being accused of abuse of office and defamation, cleared his name in court and was reinstated last December, but his successor Martin Červíček challenged the move in court. Neither will compete for the post again and a tender will be launched to select a new police chief.
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