Daily news summary News of Radio Prague

29-01-2004

Cyanide blackmailers back in court

A Prague court of appeal has confirmed seven and eight year sentences for two men found guilty of blackmail. In May of 2003 Patrik Jirsa and Petr Hirjak threatened to poison food in a hospital canteen with cyanide unless the state paid them 300 million crowns. One of the men has made a full confession, the other maintains that he is innocent and was tricked by his accomplice. The threats naturally evoked great public concern and resulted in weeks of extremely tight security in and around Prague hospitals.

Priest resigns his teaching post in wake of scandal

A priest who is believed to have been an agent of the dreaded communist secret police has resigned his post at the theological faculty of Charles University. Stanislav Prokop was urged to resign by the faculty dean Ludvik Armbruster who allegedly has copies of the incriminating secret service files at his disposal. Mr. Armbruster pointed out that somebody connected with the former secret service lacked the moral qualifications to teach theology.

Train drivers on strike alert

Train drivers at Czech national rail operator Ceske Drahy on Thursday entered a strike alert after management declined to raise their wages. The reason is management's failure to meet an earlier promise to change the pay scale of train drivers which would have opened the way to higher salaries. Railway unions are still in talks with the management on the dismissal of 6,000 employees planned for this year.

Mein Kamp publisher vows to battle on for freedom of speech

A Czech publisher has vowed to continue a four year battle with state prosecutors over a Czech translation of Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf. Publisher Michal Zitko received a three year suspended sentence and five years probation in a Prague court on Wednesday, but afterwards said he would appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court and even the European Court of Human rights if necessary. Police seized thousands of copies of Zitko's translation shortly after it hit bookshelves in the year 2,000. He claims that free speech is on trial and that he translated and sold Mein Kempf as a historical book. Some 100,000 copies were sold before the police started confiscating it.

Environmental impact assessment law

The Senate has passed an amendment to the environmental impact assessment law which will allow an assessment not only of national but also of regional projects. The amendment is to provide space for the public to express their opinion in the early phase of a project when for instance several options are being considered. Some senators of the Civic Democratic Party criticized the bill saying it would increase construction costs and prolong the actual time of construction. However their objections were overruled and the bill was approved by 34 of the 63 senators present.

Miner killed in accident

A thirty one year old miner was killed in an accident during his early morning shift at the Moravian Paskov coal mine on Thursday. The miner was trapped under a heavy load of wooden beams which he was transporting and which somehow came loose. The man was fatally injured and died before ambulance workers could reach him. The cause of the accident is being investigated.

Weather:

Friday is expected to bring partly cloudy skies with intervals of sunshine and day temperatures between minus one and minus four degrees Celsius.

29-01-2004