A court in Prague has set free the head of the country's largest commercial TV station, rejecting a police request to keep him in custody until he is tried for damaging the interests of a creditor. Vladimir Zelezny, head of TV Nova, was released from police custody on Thursday evening, after spending two nights in a cell. Mr Zelezny is accused of ignoring an international arbitration ruling which ordered him to pay compensation to a former business partner, the U.S. cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder. Mr Lauder invested heavily in Nova in the early 1990s, but fell out with Mr Zelezny in 1999. Earlier this year an international court of arbitration found Mr Zelezny guilty of breach of contract, and ordered him to pay 27 million dollars in compensation.
Members of the opposition Four-Party Coalition have fiercely criticised a decision by the lower house of parliament to revoke a bill two weeks after it was approved. Members of the Coalition told reporters the move was unconstitutional and undemocratic. MPs revoked the bill - an amendment to the Commercial Code - in a special session on Thursday. The bill was approved by the lower house on October 31, but was later found to contain two contradictory passages. The chairman of the lower house, Vaclav Klaus, said the bill was confusing, and there was no choice but to revoke it. The Four-Party Coalition say amending legislation is the work of the Senate. The Coalition has a narrow majority in the upper house.
Officials investigating the recent crash of a Czech air force helicopter say the aircraft had apparently run out of fuel. Investigators said safety equipment which is supposed to warn the pilot when fuel runs low was not functioning properly. They added that the helicopter had just one litre of fuel left when the engines shut down, sending the aircraft plummeting to the ground. The crash occurred in October, as the helicopter was ferrying a number of VIP guests - including the former U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan - to a ceremony in a village in South Bohemia. There were no fatalities, but all twelve passengers and crew were injured, some seriously.
There have been harsh words of criticism for the Czech football team after they were knocked out of qualifications for the 2002 World Cup. The Czechs were beaten 1-0 by Belgium in their second-leg playoff match at Prague's Sparta stadium on Wednesday evening, ending their dreams of competing in next year's tournament in Japan and South Korea. The Czech coach, Josef Chovanec, accepted responsibility for the team's disastrous showing, but rejected calls for his resignation. Mr Chovanec said it was up to the Czech football association to decide his future. Most newspapers described Wednesday's defeat as a national disgrace.
Britain suspended immigration controls at Prague's Ruzyne Airport on Wednesday, six days after they were reintroduced. An embassy spokesman said a total of 16 people, 13 of whom were Czech citizens, had been refused entry. Immigration officials have been deployed at the airport on and off for several months in what London describes as "pre-clearance controls", screening passengers before they leave Czech soil. The British authorities say the measures are to prevent what it says is the deliberate abuse of its asylum system by some Czech citizens. Several thousand Czech Romanies have arrived in Britain in recent years seeking asylum, although London denies the measures are targeted deliberately at citizens of Roma origin.
And finally a look at the weather. Friday will be overcast, with the chance of wintry showers in some parts of the country. Daytime temperatures will not rise above 6 degrees Celsius. And there's more cold and overcast weather forecast for the weekend.
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