President Vaclav Klaus granted five presidential pardons on Wednesday, the first time he has done so since he first took office in March. President Klaus's spokesman said they were cases where suspended prison sentences had been imposed or applicants were suffering serious health conditions, or a combination of both. He would not specify any other details on Thursday. The Presidential Office says it has received some 900 pardon applications since March. Mr Klaus' predecessor Vaclav Havel was often criticised for dispensing controversial pardons. Mr Havel's office made public detailed information on every pardon dispensed. Mr Klaus said shortly after his election in late February that he would only grant pardons in exceptional cases.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament overturned President Vaclav Klaus's veto on Thursday and in a repeated vote passed a draft amendment raising self-employed people's health insurance payments. Self-employed people will pay higher health insurance in the coming years; the assessment basis will be gradually raised for them from the current 35 percent of the difference between revenues and expenditures to 50 percent in 2006. The government expects the amendment to bring in 1.5 billion crowns to the state coffers. The government also claims that the bill will only bring justice to a situation where self-employed people pay substantially less than employees for health insurance. President Klaus had argued that the law would deteriorate the position of small businesses and self-employed people.
The Prague High Court sentenced Anastas Stanev to six years in prison on Thursday for having used the Internet repeatedly to threaten the Czech branch of the Coca-Cola Company that he would poison its products, a reduction of two years from the sentence given in September by the city court. The judge supported the verdict by stating that Mr Stanev only attempted the extortion and had no previous criminal record. In addition, the police found no poison in his possession. Mr Stanev, a Bulgarian citizen who has lived in the Czech Republic for ten years, threatened to poison Coca-Cola's beverages if it did not pay him several million crowns. He has maintained his innocence.
John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono opened her latest art exhibition on Wednesday at a museum near Prague's legendary Lennon Wall. She told reporters at the Kampa Museum that she was visiting the Czech capital for the first time to open her "Women's Room" exhibition, which is dedicated to the struggles women face. The museum is a short walk from an outdoor wall where graffiti and poems surround a Lennon portrait painted by an unknown artist shortly after the former Beatle's murder in 1980. The wall was somehow left untouched by authorities during the former communist era which ended in 1989, and today remains a symbol of Czech freedom. Lennon fans gather at the wall for candlelight memorials every December 8, the anniversary of his death.
Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved of Juventus has been named as the World Player of the Year in a poll by readers of the magazine World Soccer. The 31-year-old player gained more than a third of the votes in the magazine's 22nd annual poll after a series of outstanding performances for Juventus as they retained the Italian League title and reached the Champions League Final in May. Nedved topped the player poll in front of Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Manchester United and the Netherlands and Raul of Real Madrid and Spain.
Friday is going to be a cloudy day with occasional snow and daytime temperatures ranging from minus 3 to plus 6 degrees Celsius.
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