Daily news summary News of Radio Prague

03-05-2001

Witness speaks out against former SS guard

A witness at the trial in Germany of the former SS camp guard Anton Malloth, has said that he directly witnessed Malloth beating a Jewish prisoner to death at the Terezin camp eighty kilometers north of Prague in the autumn of 1944. The man, who was a Czech fellow prisoner, said that Malloth then ordered prisoners to carry the dead man to the morgue. This is the first time since Malloth's trial began last week that a witness has said directly that he saw him killing a prisoner. The former camp guard has been in custody in Germany since May last year, when German courts relaunched an investigation into his wartime activities on the basis of fresh witness accounts.

Roma representation at the foreign ministry

The Czech foreign ministry has announced it will set up a special department by the end of next month, aimed at dealing with issues connected with the Roma minority. The deputy foreign minister, Martin Palous, said that the ministry would also employ an advisor for Romany affairs, who would himself or herself be a member of the Czech Republic's Romany minority. The move is a further step in the ministry's stated policy of respecting the Czech Roma as part of a European Romany nation. Last month the foreign minister signed a memorandum, promising official cooperation with the International Romany Union, which has represented Romanies worldwide since 1971.

Confusion over arms exports

Confusion remains over a consignment of arms from the Czech Republic, detained on a plane in Bulgaria since last week. The Bulgarian authorities have said that they will release the plane only once the Czech Republic has sent confirmation that its cargo really is bound for Georgia, as stated on official papers. Suspicion was aroused when the plane's crew said that they would be flying first to Eritrea, where a strict United Nations arms embargo is in place. In the meantime, the authorities in Georgia have said that only part of the cargo was destined for their country, adding that they know nothing about machine guns and other weaponry also alleged to be on board.

Letter bomb injures bankrupt company chief

The former director of the bankrupt housing construction company H-System has been injured after letter bombs were sent to him and other members of the company's management. A police spokesman said that the bombs were probably intended as a warning. When H-System collapsed most of the people who had invested into the company lost their savings, in many cases amounting to hundreds of thousands of crowns.

In a separate incident, part of Prague's busy Wenceslas Square had to be evacuated early on Wednesday evening after a suspicious package was found in a department store. Police immediately cordoned off the area, much to the confusion of passing tourists, and bomb disposal experts were sent in to investigate. It is still not clear whether the incident was connected with the letter bombs.

Finance minister outlines budget plans

The Czech finance minister, Jiri Rusnok, has said that the ministry has prepared two possible scenarios for next year's state budget. One counts on a deficit of ten billion Czech crowns, and the other on a twenty-billion-crown deficit (just under 0.5 billion US dollars). He added that the outline budgets had already been prepared by his predecessor Pavel Mertlik, who resigned last month. Both scenarios count on a significantly lower deficit than for this year's budget, although the second version goes against an agreement with the opposition Civic Democrats, under which the government said that the deficit would not exceed ten billion crowns.

EU ministers approve Czech membership of the European Environment Agency

European Union ministers have given the go-ahead for the thirteen candidate countries to join the European Environment Agency. This will enable the Czech Republic to form part of the European Union's environmental monitoring service and will give access to the agency's information network. The European Environment Agency collects and evaluates data on the ecological situation in all spheres of the economy in member countries. Before the Czech Republic can join, its membership will have to be approved by both houses of the Czech parliament.

Suspected drug dealer caught

Czech customs officials have announced that they have detained a man from the former Yugoslavia suspected of being the boss of an international drug-smuggling ring. The man is being sought by Italian police, under suspicion of smuggling hundreds of tonnes of drugs including heroin into Italy. He fled the country after a warrant was issued for his arrest last year. He is now being held in custody prior to a Czech court decision as to whether he should be extradited to Italy.

Level of foreign capital increases

The number of Czech firms that have come under foreign control has increased. According to statistics nearly two thirds of all Czech exports are by firms with majority foreign ownership, an increase of two-and-a-half percent since 1999. Figures are highest for processing industries and the energy sector. Overall Czech exports increased by nearly a quarter in the year 2000.

Journalist found not guilty

A Prague court has found a thirty-six-year-old photojournalist not guilty of assaulting a police officer at a demonstration last May. The prosecution had claimed that Lenka Kucerova had attacked the officer while he was trying to arrest someone taking part in an anarchist rally. The judge said that the journalist had tried to grab the policeman by his jacket, but that her actions did not amount to assault. Mrs Kucerova welcomed the verdict, but at the same time repeated her earlier claim that she had not come into any kind of physical contact with the police officer.

More people travelling by train

More people are traveling by train in the Czech Republic. In the first quarter of this year the figure was up by over six percent, compared with the same period last year. The head of the state owned Czech Railways said that he expected the upward trend to continue, adding that there were plans to increase the number of high quality services such as EuroCity and InterCity trains. Czech Railways also report an increase in goods traffic, largely thanks to international container transport. Nonetheless total losses this year are expected to remain at over five billion crowns.

Weather

It should stay very summery, with Thursday's temperatures once again rising to 27 or even 28 degrees Celsius. But there is a chance of the occasional shower or thunderstorm later in the day. It will be a little cooler on Friday, and by the weekend we can expect cloudier, wetter weather to reach the Czech Republic, although it will still be warm.

03-05-2001