The Czech Constitutional Court has overturned a crucial component of the government’s healthcare reforms, ruling that unpaid sick leave must be abolished. As a result of recent government reforms, employees, rather than receiving the previous 40% of pay for the first three days away from work, received nothing. The government argued that the change was designed to reduce relatively high levels of illness-related leave taken by Czechs. However, in its ruling, the court found that the changed legislation was unconstitutional in that it failed to guarantee an employee’s right to security in times of illness. The court has declared that by June 30, the law must be reversed. This ruling comes as a part of a wider courtroom showdown in which the opposition Social Democrats have challenged the constitutional legality of many of the proposed reforms undertaken by the government such as fees for doctor’s visits.
A regional court in the town of Hradec Králové has found choirmaster Bohumil Kulinský guilty of charges of sexual abuse of underage girls. The case relates to 49 separate counts of abuse of choirgirls in his charge between the years of 1984 and 2004. The former choirmaster’s defence rejected the charges during the trial although Mr Kulinský admitted having “sexual relations” with some of his pupils who were above the age of sexual consent – 15 in the Czech Republic. The defence also questioned the reliability of the testimonies given against him. The state prosecutor recommended a prison sentence of eight and a half years for Mr Kulinský and also recommended that he be prevented from having contact with children for a period of ten years. However, the court subsequently sentenced Kulinský to a three year suspended sentence.
New electronic communication legislation passed by the government has raised concerns about the erosion of personal liberties. The legislation enables phone operators to collect data about their customers including where, when and whom people are calling. The legislation narrowly passed its second reading after being rejected in the first round by the coalition Green Party. The opposition Social Democrats have accused the bill of fomenting the notion of a police state, spying on its citizens. They also criticised that the state, not the companies involved would be paying for the collection of data – with an estimated price tag of around 300 million crowns. The governing Civic Democrats have defended the legislation arguing that it is similar to legislation enacted across the EU
Czech police have announced that they will begin to investigate serious fouls committed in sporting matches in the Czech Republic. According to the police, the investigations will begin from autumn and will cover incidents both deliberate and accidental which are deemed to be brutal in nature. The change in approach comes as a result of a March high court ruling in which a sports player was found guilty of causing injury to another player. Although the player was not punished, the court stated that the defendant bore criminal responsibility for the incident. Police have rejected charges that police intervention may affect the viability of contact sports such as boxing, stating that oversight and liability are a legitimate way to tackle egregious behaviour.
The governmental agency for the protection of private data has ruled that a camera system used in the Prague Savoy hotel was misused. Specifically, the case relates to a meeting between a Social Democrat lobbyist and Jiří Weigl, head of the office of the Czech president, which took place at the Savoy and was captured on its cameras. A recording of the meeting was made public around the time of the presidential elections leading to speculation that President Klaus was attempting to illicitly gain votes from some Social Democrat MPs – while the party officially supported opposition candidate Jan Švejnar. How the video recordings of the meeting were leaked to the media is still being investigated, but at present, the agency investigating the incident has found the hotel to be involved in excessive surveillance of its customers, storing surveillance recordings and not informing guests that they are being monitored. The hotel has denied the charges stating that recordings are made for the safety of its guests.
The Czech finance ministry has released a new forecast for the Czech economy which predicts that the country will continue to achieve strong levels of growth. The new prediction of 4.9% growth is up by 0.2% from previous predictions. In 2009, the ministry forecast growth of around 5.1%. However, inflation, which remains a key concern across the world, is expected to remain high at 6.5%, a considerably higher figure than the 2.8% rate of last year. Unemployment is also predicted to fall slightly to 4.2% with a rate of 3.6% predicted for 2009.
The Czech senate is widely expected to approve a 465 crown increase in pensions from August this week. The move comes as a response to rising inflation levels in the Czech Republic. Extraordinary pension increases are allowed by law if inflation exceeds 10 percent. However, in this case, special legislation has been drafted to allow an increase if inflation exceeds only five percent.
A 72 year-old Czech woman from the town of Třinec has been charged with the murder of her ex-husband. The alleged murder weapon: a common cooking pot - which the woman is suspected of using to beat her ex husband to death with. The former couple had been divorced for ten years, although significant issues still reportedly existed between them. The woman has confessed to the murder, stating that her ex arrived at her home drunk and was determined to have an argument with his former spouse. The woman faces up to ten years in jail.
Czech police have recovered all of the bronze name plaques which were stolen from the graves of Holocaust victims in Northern Bohemia two weeks ago. Tuesday’s edition of Mladá fronta Dnes reports that thieves stole more than 800 name plates from the national cemetery in Terezín, which they then sold for scrap. A suspect has been arrested in connection with the incident, and if found guilty, could face up to eight years in prison. The scrap-yard owner who bought the plates, however, is unlikely to be prosecuted, a police spokesperson told the daily. The damage that the Holocaust memorial suffered is thought to have run into millions of crowns, all of the bronze plates were found broken into pieces. A private security firm has been guarding the graveyard from any further thefts since the beginning of this week.
Czech and American delegates have embarked upon what they hope will be a final round of talks on the SOFA agreement, which will provide a legal framework for American troops living and working on Czech soil. The agreement is being discussed in connection with US plans to build an anti-missile radar base in Brdy, Central Bohemia. According to a Czech defence ministry spokesperson, it is still to be resolved whether American troops will have to pay income tax in the Czech Republic. Another issue which both parties have failed to agree upon up until now is the criminal jurisdiction of American troops on Czech soil. Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek has said that he hopes the agreement will be ready for signing by early May, at the same time as a Czech-American treaty paving the way for a US radar base to be stationed on Czech soil.
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