Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has apologized for comments made on Thursday related to the former work camp in Lety, South Bohemia, where many Czech Romanies were interned during World War II. Several hundred people died at the site as the result of disease, while hundreds were sent to Auschwitz. The news site aktualne.cz reported the minister had said that only Romanies who hadn’t wanted to work were sent there. Mr Babiš has since said his words were taken out of context and apologized “if he had caused offence”. A number of Czech politicians, including the Minister for Human Rights Jiří Dienstbier, have called for the finance minister to step down.
The Czech Interior Ministry has confirmed that Prague City Hall had no reason a priori to ban a recent demonstration by populist activists on the city’s Old Town Square but said that the event should have attracted greater attention from relevant bureaux. On August 21, activist Martin Konvička and associates launched a “mock IS” invasion on the square, complete with replica firearms, as part of anti-Islamic demonstration. The demonstration initially caused a panic among some tourists; the police quickly stepped in to stop the event. Last year, on the anniversary of the fall of Communism in the former Czechoslovakia, Mr Konvička shared the stage with Czech President Miloš Zeman at a public event – something the president’s spokesman has confirmed would not be repeated.
Czech military intelligence (VZ) has said in its annual report that it gathered no information last year which would have indicated a danger of a terrorist attack against potential targets on Czech soil. In its report, the service said, however, that it had registered a rise in cyberattacks. Risks were gauged as low to medium, but there is a possibility that threats could increase rapidly. The intelligence service noted in its findings that some of the country’s soldiers had clandestinely made use of Nazi symbols and made racist statements online. The number of individuals attracted to far-right extremist movements, however, was low, the report said.
The military intelligence report follows that of the civil counter espionage service and the news a day earlier that seven individuals from Islamic countries had stayed in the country temporarily last year on their way to Syria to join Islamic State or similar groups.
Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman has filed an extraordinary appeal in the case of lobbyist Marek Dalík, who began serving a four-year prison sentence on Thursday for soliciting bribes in connection with a major military contract dating back to 2007. The Supreme State Attorney filed the appeal on the grounds the sentence was below the standard legal range for the crime, his spokesman confirmed. Mr Dalík has himself petitioned the country’s Supreme Court.
The president’s chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, has described a court decision handed down on Thursday as a “3:1 win” for the Czech head-of-state. While the court on Thursday upheld an earlier ruling ordering President Zeman to apologise to the granddaughter of Czech journalist Ferdinand Peroutka (for claiming Mr Perouka once wrote an article describing Adolf Hitler as a gentleman) the judge likewise ruled that the president did not have to apologize for his claim that Peroutka was fascinated by Nazism or for saying that one of his articles was openly anti-Semitic. The president’s chancellor Vratislav Mynář said that although the “Hitler was a gentleman” article was never found, it did not mean “it did not exist”.
The public will have a chance to pay their last respects to the Czech gymnastics legend Věra Čáslavská, who died this week at the age of 74, in the National Theatre on September 12. The commemorative event will be organised by the Czech Olympic Committee. The family of Věra Čáslavská had turned down proposals for a state funeral. The most successful ever Czech Olympic athlete, who won seven gold medals in the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Games, was also a vocal critic of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia and persecuted for signing the pro-reform manifesto "Two Thousand Words".
The Czech News Agency reports that Erik Geuss in no longer head of the Czech Environmental Inspectorate, citing a decision by Deputy Interior Minister Josef Postránecký, dating back to August 22. The decision was confirmed by Interior Ministry spokeswoman Hana Malá. The Environment Ministry has reportedly left the official in his post for the time being, not having received official confirmation.
Czech hygiene officials have banned swimming at some 10 ponds around the country due to the presence of blue-green algae. Other natural swimming pools have also seen worsening conditions and some have already closed with the end of the summer holidays and beginning of the school year. Exposure to blue-green algae represents a human health risk: exposure can lead to stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and liver problems.
Czech football club Viktoria Plzeň has confirmed it will play its upcoming Europa League match against Roma with its stadium partly closed – punishment by UEFA over the racist behaviour of some its fans. Incidents were registered in the club’s Champions League qualifying match against Ludogorets Razgrad on August 23. The manager of the club said it was taking a zero-tolerance approach and that it would fight without compromise against racist behaviour. The match against Roma takes place on September 15.
Javelin thrower Jakub Vadlejch is the fourth Czech to win the Diamond League. He secured the victory at a meeting in Zurich on Thursday with a throw of 87.28 metres, the second best result of his career. Other Czech winners of the Diamond League series include javelin throwers Barbora Špotáková and Vítězslav Veselý and hurdler Zuzana Hejnová.
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