Prague reacts to Milosevic indictment
There have been mixed reactions in Prague to the indictment of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes. Speaking to U.S. President Bill Clinton by telephone, the Czech President Vaclav Havel said he welcomed the move. His spokesman said that Havel did not share the fears of several diplomats who believe the indictment could hamper negotiations over finding a solution to the Kosovo crisis. However the deputy Premier for foreign affairs, Egon Lansky, said the move had come at the wrong time. Lansky said there had been signals that the Kosovo conflict was close to being resolved, and that Milosevic´s indictment was a setback to this progress. The United Nations Special Envoy for Human Rights Jiri Dienstbier was also sceptical over the indictment. Dienstbier pointed out that there many indicted war criminals still at large in the former Yugoslavia who had still not faced trial for their crimes. He warned that it was morally wrong to indict someone as a war criminal, and then sign a peace agreement with him. The U.N. war crimes tribunal announced on Thursday that Milosevic and four senior associates had been indicted over the alleged mass expulsion and murder of Kosovo Albanians.
In a separate development, the U.S. ambassador to Prague, John Shattuck, has criticised the Czech-Greek peace initiative for Kosovo. Shattuck said NATO would not halt the bombing of Yugoslavia until President Milosevic began complying with the conditions laid down by NATO and the G8 group of countries. The Czech-Greek plan suggested a two to three-week halt to the bombing to allow Milosevic to begin withdrawing his forces in Kosovo.
The Supreme Court has overruled a decision by a court in Prague to quash the sentences against three skinheads who were found guilty of murdering a teenage Romany boy in 1993. The High Court in Prague had rejected the verdict by a regional court in South Bohemia, which sentenced the youths to between seven and eight and half years in prison for their part in the drowning of Romany teenager Tibor Danihel. Danihel drowned in a river in the South Bohemian town of Pisek in September 1993. The youths, who were part of a large crowd of skinheads armed with baseball bats, forced the 17-year-old boy into the river in spite of protests that he was unable to swim. The case now returns to the High Court for retrial.
The leader of a Bulgarian gang which forced women into prostitution in North Bohemia has been extradited to the Czech Republic after being arrested in Poland. Polish police arrested the man, Bulgarian Cvetomir Belèev, in the city of Vratislav in December. Belèev was recently sentenced in absentia by a Czech court to 10 years in prison. Czech police raided a number of sex clubs in North Bohemia in 1997, freeing several dozen Bulgarian women who had been lured to the country by offers of work and then forced into prostitution. The women had their passports confiscated and were forbidden from leaving the clubs unaccompanied. Several of the women had been regularly bound and beaten by the gang. Belèev himself was on holiday at the time of the police raids, and reports in the media suggested he had been tipped off beforehand. He will now be given the opportunity to lodge an appeal against the decision.
Groups representing the country´s Roma community have welcomed a government decision to block the building of a wall to partition a street in the north Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem. The local council decided to build a wall after white house-dwellers on one side of the street complained about the noise and rubbish from apartment blocks opposite, whose inhabitants are predominantly Romany rent-defaulters. The chairman of the Romany Civic Initiative said the government must uphold the country´s laws to protect human rights. The government´s human rights commissioner Petr Uhl, who has strongly opposed the wall, said he was afraid the street would now become a political battleground between the Social Democrat government and the main opposition Civic Democratic Party. There has been a mixed reaction to the decision from members of the two houses of parliament.
Doctors treating President Vaclav Havel for bronchitis say the president has shown a slight improvement. Havel, who was taken to hospital last week, is still being treated with antibiotics but doctors are now lowering the dosage. Havel's personal doctor Ilja Kotik said his temperature had returned to normal, and the 62-year-old president was "dealing with urgent agenda items". Havel's medical council said on Wednesday that the president would stay in hospital at least until Friday. Havel, a former chain-smoker, has been plagued by serious illness in recent years. Last summer he contracted pneumonia following intestinal surgery.
The Communist Party says it intends to hold a demonstration at a NATO military exercise in South Moravia. The demonstration, scheduled for June the third, is to protest against the Czech Republic´s membership of NATO and the alliance´s bombing of Yugoslavia. The exercise, Cooperative Guard 99, was to be visited by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and President Vaclav Havel, but both are now unable to attend.
And finally a quick look at the weather. And it looks like we´re in for a hot and sunny weekend here in the Czech Republic. Temperatures are expected to reach highs of 30 degrees Celsius in places, with the possibility of thunderstorms in some parts of the country.
And that brings us to the end of the news.
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