A Prague court on Friday remanded in custody a senior aide to two former Social Democrat prime ministers on charges of pocketing EU funds and blackmail. The charges against Zdenek Dolezel and also Ladislav Peta, mayor of the town of Budisov, and Miloslav Rehulka, an Agriculture Ministry employee, were brought on Wednesday. The three men were accused of having siphoned off tens of millions of Czech crowns of EU and state funds from a project to renovate Budisov castle. They are also accused of blackmailing a Czech architect, Marek Ricar, who alerted police to the alleged fraud. According to media reports, the three were preparing to hire a killer to assassinate Jan Kubice, head of the special police squad for uncovering organised crime. Mr. Rehulka was also taken into custody while Mr. Peta was taken to a hospital for medical attention; his lawyer told reporters that Mr. Peta has cancer, and was due to start treatment in hospital on Friday.
In the same case, police on Friday charged former deputy local development minister Vera Jourova with corruption. Ms Jourova was arrested shortly after her plane landed at Prague-Ruzyne airport on Friday afternoon. Ms Jourova was a member of the Social Democratic Party for three years. She voluntarily ended her membership on June 5 after she left the post of deputy local development minister. According to former PM and party chairman Jiri Paroubek, Jourova used her membership as a "lift" for her career.
A new poll by the Factum Invenio agency suggests over 50 percent of Czechs believe that the Senate, the upper house of the Czech Parliament, is quite a useless institution and should be abolished. The trend has been visible ever since 1996 when the Senate was established. However, the number of those believing that it is a useful and beneficial institution has slightly increased. The first round of Senate elections in one third of the constituencies will be held next weekend.
The foundation stone of a new headquarters for Prague-based US-funded radio station, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was laid in the Czech capital on Friday. The broadcaster's current headquarters is in the centre of Prague and the station together with the city authorities have been discussing its moving since the September 11 attacks on the US. The Congress-funded radio station broadcasts in 28 languages to some 20 countries in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia. Founded in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War, the broadcaster moved to Prague from Munich, Germany, in 1995 to take advantage of an offer to house it in the former Czechoslovak parliament building in the city centre.
Czech teenager Nicole Vaidisova was beaten by fifth-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova 0-6 6-4 6-7 at the Kremlin Cup Women's Singles semi-finals on Saturday. Nadia Petrova will face her compatriot Anna Chakvetadze in the final match on Sunday.
The rest of the weekend should be sunny to partly cloudy with daytime highs between 16 and 19 degrees Celsius.
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