Czech police last year apprehended 8,563 illegal immigrants in the country, a 77.5 percent rise compared with 2014. The biggest portion of those stopped, around a quarter, were from Syria, with Ukrainians and Kuwaitis the next biggest groups. Just under 170 people were also detained by the police for helping immigrants cross the border or live illegally underground in the Czech Republic.
Lebanese citizen Ali Fayad was released from detention by Prague’s Municipal Court on Thursday and will not be extradited, according to a report by the ČTK news agency. Fayad had been detained since April last year on suspicions of links with terrorism. His extradition, together with two citizens of the Ivory Coast, had been sought by the United States over an alleged deal for smuggling arms to FARC guerrillas in Colombia in exchange for cocaine. The Minister of Justice will have the final word over their extradition. He later confirmed that Fayad and one of his alleged accomplices will nt be extradited.
Five Czech citizens seized for around half a year in Lebanon began their journey back home on Thursday. A special plane to bring them back to Prague took off from Beirut just after mid-day local time according to local news agency reports. They arrived in Prague in the late afternoon. The five Czechs, who disappeared in the Bekaa Valley near the border with Syria in July last year, were released on Monday. A deal is suspected under which Prague will release terrorist suspects whose extradition is being sought by the United States. The five Czechs are expected to undergo health checks and police questioning to shed light on their detention on their homecoming.
Chairman of the European Council Donald Tusk is expected to visit Prague on February 16 to discuss with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka over the conditions for an agreement with Britain over its demands for a reformed European Union. Tusk unveiled the contents of a draft deal on Tuesday, including a brake allowing London to limit the number of immigrants from other EU countries. Many of the details though have still to be filled in.
Corruption watchdog Transparency International has called on the government to make sure a new proposed law on financing political parties is put on the agenda for discussion by the lower house of parliament. It’s warned that the proposal, which included the creation of an independent supervisory body for financing, risks falling by the wayside without support. Transparency said that would mean that the next general elections in 2017 would be under the existing inadequate rules.
Czech Trade, the state agency aimed at boosting exports abroad, announced Thursday that it helped to win 1.3 billion in foreign orders last year for Czech companies. The general director described 2015 a successful year all round. The star performer perhaps was the Budapest office of Czech Trade which was able pull in orders worth 455 million crowns last year.
The Czech government has decided not to include a stretch of the Elbe valley in northern Bohemia in a listing of EU designated nature protection sites, according to the daily Lidové Noviny. It said that the Czech Confederation of Industry and the local regional council has both lobbied hard to keep the area off the list because of worries it might impede economic development. Environmentalists have warned that Brussels could launch an infringement procedure against the Czech Republic about the decision itself and the five years required to take it.
The European Commission expects Czech economic growth this year to slow down considerable to around 2.3 percent from an expected 4.5 percent in 2015. The latest figures were released in the Commission’s winter economic prognosis. Growth in 2017 is expected to climb slightly to 2.7 percent. One of the factors curbing Czech growth is lower pumping of EU cash at the start of a new funding period.
The government has approved the renovation of the State Opera at the cost of almost one billion crowns. The project is to take roughly 27 months and should wrap up by 2018. Performances which would have taken place at the opera will be moved to the historic National Theatre or to the Karlín Musical Theatre.
Former Czechoslovak prime minister and former Interior Ministry head Lubomír Štrougal will not face criminal proceedings over the deaths of 91 people who died trying to escape Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1960s. The news was confirmed by Jan Srb, the spokesman for the Office of the Documentation and Investigation of Crimes of Communism. The police investigated Mr Štrougal, 91, for accountability in the deaths of those who died on electric fences trying to escape Communist Czechoslovakia in the years 1961 to 1965. As interior minister, Mr Štrougal made no attempt to discontinue the use of electrified fences along the western border. He was not charged in the case and Jan Srb confirmed that the statute of limitations in the case had long expired.
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