Daily news summary News

21-04-2004

Czech military police escape injury in vicinity of suicide bombings in Iraq

Czech military police stationed at an academy in the town of Zubair, near Basra, were lucky to escape injury on Wednesday after a blast - a car bombing - went off outside academy headquarters, killing four and injuring nine. At the time of the attack members of the Czech contingent were inside the base and out of harm's way; even so after Wednesday security is expected to be heavily increased. The attack on the academy in Zubair was only part of a series of coordinated and devastating suicide bombings in and around Basra on the day that claimed at least 68 lives. Czech military police in the southern city of Basra, which is under British control, have been serving in the area since the beginning of the year.

Unions: more than 200, 000 civil servants took part in strike to protest cuts in bonus pay

Tens of thousands of civil servants staged a one-hour protest strike Wednesday over cuts in their salary bonuses, with Czech unions estimating more than 200, 000 civil servants took part. Workers are angry over the government's decision to pay them only 10 percent, instead of the usual 50 percent, of the so-called 13th month bonus. State workers, and some private sector employees, in the Czech Republic have traditionally received two bonuses each year equal to a half of a month's wages, known as 13th and 14th pay. On Wednesday hospitals, schools, libraries and museums joined the protest by keeping their doors closed one hour later than usual. Alena Vondrova, chairwoman of the Union of Public Sector Employees told news agencies that the strike showed the government public civil servants would not accept the cuts in silence.

Foreign minister to be air-lifted to Prague to vote on VAT bill

Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda hospitalised since suffering a serious neck injury in a car accident last week, is to be air-lifted to Prague from Brno on Thursday to take part in a crucial vote in the Chamber of Deputies. The government coalition, which enjoys just the slimmest of majorities in Parliament, will be trying to pass a crucial VAT bill ahead of European accession. The bill, which aims to reduce the current VAT rate from 22 to 19 percent, was vetoed just last month by President Vaclav Klaus. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar meanwhile said on Wednesday that preparations to get Mr Svoboda to the Chamber were being fine-tuned. On Thursday Mr Svoboda is expected to arrive in Prague at 11 a.m. and will be taken to the Chamber of Deputies by ambulance, accompanied by medical professionals.

Police arrest 12 involved in illegal arms sales

Police and customs officials have arrested 12 Czechs involved in the alleged manufacture and illegal export of illegal weapons as well as the manufacture of illegal drugs. Lubomir Polak of the organised crime unit made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the arrests took place last week in three separate operations throughout the Czech Republic. In home searches police uncovered automatic rifles, pistols, explosives as well as 10, 000 rounds of ammunition, and sites for growing marijuana, including five kilos of the drug. According to Mr Polak, four out of twelve suspects were remanded in custody.

Human rights organisation presses charges against municipal police

The organisation the League of Human Rights has decided to represent two foreign nationals, from England and New Zealand, who allege they were brutalised by Czech municipal police. Deciding to press charges the League has called for a full investigation. The incident in which the two men were allegedly beaten took place when they had been drinking at a Prague bar and had asked the owner to call the police after getting into a dispute over the bill. Instead, police took the two men into custody. The two men contend they were beaten in the car in an abandoned part of Prague. A police spokeswoman for Prague's municipal police has meanwhile reported all three officers have denied any wrongdoing. She also said that when the two foreigners were brought in to the station there was a complaint they were drunk and disorderly.

Drug Monitoring Centre warns of dangerous new substance

The National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Abuse has released a warning about the incidence of a dangerous and unknown synthetic substance that poisoned two in Prague on April 15th: capsules with powder apparently similar in make-up to Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. Eva Skrdlantova of the centre said on Wednesday there was reason to suspect the capsules contained an as yet unknown hallucinogenic substance that could be highly dangerous and even life-threatening. Meanwhile, blood-tests on the two users showed the presence of both cocaine and metabolites in the bloodstream. Tests are underway to determine the exact nature of the substance.

Sports: Tomas Vokoun arrives in Prague

NHL hockey goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who has just completed his most successful season ever with the Nashville Predators, has arrived in Prague to take part in the 68th Ice Hockey World Championship which kicks-off in four days time. The 27-year-old netminder, who is expected to be the Czech team's starting goalie, played 79 out of 82 matches in the NHL this season, and has been showing strong form. Though his Nashville Predators went out in the first round of the NHL play-offs against the Detroit Red Wings, Vokoun helped his team notch two wins, including a valuable shut-out.

Weather

Thursday is expected to be sunny with daytime temperatures of up to 22 degrees Celsius.

21-04-2004