The CIA’s brutal interrogation of people suspected of terrorism is unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances under which it was carried out, Czech Foreign Minister Lubmír Zaorálek told the Czech News Agency through his spokesman on Friday. Mr. Zaorálek made the comment in reaction to a US Senate Intelligence Committee report this week on the brutal practices used by the country’s intelligence services. Some international NGOs say that the Czech Republic has taken part in covert CIA programmes by providing an airport for transfers.
The Czech authorities have confirmed earlier reports of the death of a British national who went missing during a stag weekend in the Czech capital on November 15. Karl Law, 34, disappeared on November 15 during a visit to Prague with 12 others; his body was recovered from the Vltava River last Sunday. His identity has alreday been confirmed by Great Britain’s Foreign Office.
Inspections of Czech munitions depots carried out by the Ministry of Interior have uncovered several shortcomings. The inspection follows a crisis at a munitions storage site in Vrbětice, eastern Moravia that was damaged by a powerful blast in mid-October, succeeded by a series of uncontrolled explosions over the next two months. According to Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, none of the shortcomings poses a threat to the people living in the vicinity of the depots. The lower house on Friday held an extraordinary meeting over the recent explosions. The police on Friday announced that its organised crime unit will be also involved in the investigation.
A new-born girl was placed in a baby-box in Prague on Friday morning at around 9 a.m., making her the 112th child to be left in a baby-box since the network was established in the country in 2005. Doctors said the baby was in a good condition. An abandoned new-born boy was found at the same place just a week ago. There are a total of 63 baby-boxes in different locations around the Czech Republic; 68 girls and 44 boys have been left in them in the last nine years.
The number of Czech inhabitants increased in the three-quarters of 2014 by 16,100 to 10.5 million, according to figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Friday. The rise is attributed mainly to immigration, but also to an increasing number of births. Nearly 83,000 children were born in the country during the first nine months of this year while over 77,000 people died over the same period.
The lower house on Friday approved draft legislation that abolishes the Brdy military zone, an area south-west of Prague. The draft law also reduces the area of other military zones in the Czech Republic. Defence Minister Martin Stropnický said the army did not need such a large area, which was originally designed for some 115,000 soldiers, since troop numbers have dropped to some 21,000. If the bill is approved by the Senate, the Army will release some 42,000 hectares out of the total of 130,000.
A two-day summit of central European presidents continues in Prague on Friday with a debate on energy infrastructure, specifically gas pipelines. On Tuesday the heads of state of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia called for the establishment of a European investment fund in support of large infrastructure projects. The first day of the summit was devoted to rail and road links in central Europe. The visiting presidents also attended the opening of an exhibition on the Danube-Odra-Elbe channel project which Czech President Miloš Zeman has long promoted.
The Slovak police have confirmed that the white powder sent to the Czech Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia, was a toxic substance. The envelope was allegedly sent from Sweden. Police president Tibor Gaspar told the media that they were cooperating on the case with the Czech authorities. In recent weeks a number of Czech institutions have received similar envelopes. Two envelopes, sent from Sweden and Slovenia, were found to contain poison, others, such as the one sent to Prague Castle contained a harmless powder. Security has been stepped up at all public institutions in the country.
Forty cinemas around the country will offer the public a live transmission of a Czech Christmas staple – Jakub Jan Ryba’s Christmas Mass- performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague’s prestigious Rudlfinum Concert Hall. The concert will take place on December 20th and is completely sold out. A number of cameras backstage will also give cinemagoers a glimpse of what goes on behind-the-scenes. A similar live transmission from the Rudolfinum in October of Antonin Dvořák’s From the New World symphony was a huge success.
During a question-and-answer session in the lower house on Thursday Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka rejected President Zeman’s suggestion that Ukraine should undergo “Finlandization” meaning that it should have a position analogous to that of Finland in the Soviet era, when it retained its sovereignty but subordinated its policies to those of its powerful neighbour. The prime minister said he considered it unfortunate to bring back a term linked to the Cold War era and stressed that Ukraine alone should decide its future position. The prime minister also expressed objections to the way that the president’s spokesman reported on Wednesday’s meeting between himself and President Miloš Zeman which suggested that there were no discrepancies between them on foreign policy matters.
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