A court in Munich has sentenced a former Nazi guard at the Terezin concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic to life in prison for murdering a Jewish prisoner and attempting to kill another. During the trial witnesses told the court that eighty-nine-year-old Anton Malloth clubbed one of the camp's inmates to death in 1944, and then jumped up and down on his lifeless body shouting 'Jewish pig'. The court also ruled that Malloth had tried to shoot another inmate. Although he was not found guilty of the murder of two other inmates, the court imposed a life sentence on Malloth, the highest possible sentence allowed under German law. Mr Malloth's lawyer's intend to appeal the verdict.
The German parliament has overwhelmingly approved of compensation to people throughout Central and Eastern Europe who were forced to work as slave labourers in Nazi Germany. This is the last obstacle that stands in the way of paying compensation to up to 1.5 million former slave labourers from a 4.5 billion US dollar fund. The organisation that administers the fund, which will be split two ways between the German government and German companies that used forced labourers during WWII, says that payments could begin in the Czech Republic by mid-June, as preparations for providing the compensation are already quite advanced. Up to 80,000 Czechs are expected to receive compensation and the average payment is expected to reach up to fifteen thousand marks per person. There has been fierce criticism of the length of time it has taken to arrange the compensation programme, as an estimated 10 to 15 percent of claimants are dying every year.
Amnesty International has criticised police practises, racism against the Roma minority and legislation for foreign residents in the Czech Republic in its annual report. The report claims that during protests against the IMF/World Bank meetings in Prague last September, demonstrators arrested by the police were denied the right to a phone call or medical treatment and several of them were beaten in police custody. The report also says that new legislation on foreign residents gives the police excessive powers that could allow them to discriminate against foreign nationals. Amnesty International further criticises the Czech authorities' attitude to the Roma minority, saying that they have poor relations with the Roma community and have failed to protect them from being attacked by neo-Nazi skinheads.
The government approved a decree on Wednesday ordering the Finance Ministry to prepare the Czech state budget for 2002 with a maximum budget deficit of ten billion Czech crowns, or roughly 250 million US dollars. This deficit limit is part of a deal concluded between the minority Social Democrat government and the main opposition Civic Democrats, who keep the government in power via a power sharing agreement. The deficit for this year is 49 billion Czech crowns, or roughly one and a quarter billion US dollars, which the Civic Democrats say is far too high.
Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr has officially been appointed Deputy Prime Minister. Czech President Vaclav Havel named him deputy prime minister after several weeks delay, because he has had grave reservations over Mr Gregr's appointment. The president does not have the right under the Czech Constitution to reject government appointments, but has been quoted as saying that he dislikes Mr Gregr's approach to the Czech economy and his vision for the future. Because he could not reject Mr Gregr's appointment, the president's delay in officially naming him as a sign of protest.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Thursday should see cloudy to overcast skies, with the possibility of rain showers or thunderstorms in places. Temperatures should rise to a daytime high of 24 degrees Celsius. The weather on Friday should be much the same, but slightly cooler.
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