The Chief Prosecutor's Office in Ankara is seeking a prison term of between seven and a half years and 15 years for two Czechs charged with aiding terrorist activities within the People's Protection Units YPG which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Miroslav Farkas and Marketa Všelichová were arrested in November 2016 trying to cross the Turkish-Syrian border. They have been in the custody since their arrest. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, who visited Turkey in January and brought up the case, said he hoped for a satisfactory outcome, indicating the two might soon be expelled from the country.
Czech Radio has reported on widespread abuse of the Czech visa system in Ukraine. Its team of investigative reporters said the issuing of visas for Ukrainian workers had turned into a booming business for agents and middlemen. The Czech Foreign Ministry has said it is aware of the problem and is working to tackle it. In view of record low unemployment in the Czech Republic, the government has been under pressure from Czech firms to double the number of visa requests processed monthly in order to bring more workers into the country faster. According to Czech Radio, Ukrainian workers have no choice but to use the services of middlemen if they want to get on the electronic lists of visa applicants which is filled for months in advance.
Journalists from the Visegrad Group states, comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, have expressed concern regarding media freedom in their respective countries. At a meeting in Prague, the editors-in-chief of leading dailies and weeklies in the region said politicians were trying to gain control of the public media, exert their influence and restrict media freedom. Gradually, we are seeing the independence of the media undermined by political and economic means, journalists said in a joint statement following their Prague meeting. They stressed the importance of media freedom for democracy in the region.
A twenty-two-year-old Czech who is standing trial after trying to join Islamic State, suffers from a schizoid personality disorder and was not able to judge the outcome of his actions, psychiatric experts testified in court on Thursday. They said the man should be receiving psychiatric care. He himself told the court earlier that he did not want to kill anyone in Syria, but wanted to join IS so that he could be killed in battle. He said he converted to Islam three or four years ago. He is the first Czech to face charges of trying to join a terrorist group. The hearing has been adjourned until February 24.
The strong rouble is bringing Russian tourists back to the Czech Republic, Czech public television reported. Interest is traditionally highest in the Czech capital and some of the country’s famous spa resorts. Some Russian tourist agencies currently report a 60 percent increase in the number of tourists booking trips to Prague. Russian tourists appreciate the fact that they generally do not have a problem communicating in their native language, the high quality of services available and the fact that the country is perceived as a safe tourist destination.
The number of passive houses built in the Czech Republic in 2016 is estimated at between 600 and 700, making up roughly 4.5 percent of the overall number of houses constructed that year, according to the Centre for Passive Housing. According to the centre the numbers are not precise since they are only based on requests for subsidies for passive houses. Passive houses first appeared in the Czech Republic ten years ago and their numbers have been on the rise since the government approved a subsidies programme for environmentally friendly housing projects. The trend caught on from neighbouring Germany, where there are over 40, 000 passive houses registered.
Leaders of the coalition government have agreed a compromise solution over the divisive issue of how to raise payments to families with children. They finally agreed Wednesday night to set aside 4 billion crowns to be spent from next year. The cash will allow an extra 300 crowns a month payments tor families with children as long as they do not exceed an earnings ceiling. A further 150 crowns a month for the first child will be offered through tax breaks. The issue had divided the coalition leaders with the main government party, the Social Democrats, seeking higher cash payments and ANO and the Christian Democrats demanding higher tax breaks.
The Czech Republic has assured Iraq of its continued commitment in the fight against Islamic State militants and its involvement in helping to rebuild the country. During a visit to Prague by the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Al-Jaafari the two sides signed a memorandum on closer cooperation and discussed areas where the Czech Republic could provide assistance, such as helping to clear war zones of mines and rebuild residential areas. Under a new project future Iraqi diplomats will get schooling in Prague. The Czech Republic currently has a field hospital in Iraq, has a mission training pilots, and supplies munitions for the Czech L-159 fighters in Iraq. Czech companies are also involved in trying to rebuild the local oil industry.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a top security official to Prague to keep on eye on his uncle, the current ambassador to Prague Kim Pyong-il, the South Korean newspaper Choson Ilbo has reported. It added that the Koran leader feared that his uncle might be a focus for opposition to him. Kim Pyong-il has occupied a series of diplomatic posts in Europe since 1979 in a move which has been interpreted as keeping out of politics in his homeland. He was moved to Prague in 2015 from a long term posting in Warsaw in an attempt to weaken him, the paper added. Some opposition groups hoped Kim Pyong-il might serve as a focus a challenge to the current regime, the paper added.
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